Because our friend and former student, Dan Stokes, became interim organist at Derry, we decided to spend a few Sundays visiting Derry Church to hear Dan play. We realized from the first Sunday service that there was a friendliness and sincerity at Derry that led us to attend membership classes and become a part of that family. Then COVID hit, and the opportunity to know more members of the congregation and to become involved in the life of the church seemed to disappear. The streaming services allowed us to continue to worship each Sunday, but we still felt removed from the actual life of the church and from fellowship with its members. We couldn’t possibly know at that point just how important our connection to Derry Presbyterian would become in the following months.
As the pandemic continued to preclude worshipping in person, we adjusted ourselves to “remote” membership in the anticipation of full participation when the pandemic subsided. Then, in a blink of the proverbial eye, our lives were upended, as Rudy was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer. No warning signs. Just a quick trip to the emergency room, a diagnosis within hours, and brain surgery scheduled within days. Seeking some direction and support at a particularly difficult time, we turned to the Derry ministerial staff. While one would expect the clergy to offer their guidance, we were not prepared for Derry’s pastors’ numerous expressions of care via phone calls, texts, emails, and cards. Indeed, their sincere expressions of concern extended far beyond what we could possibly expect! Their calm, reasoned guidance and encouragement provided a much-needed respite from the chaos that enveloped us during those dark days.
Even more astonishing (at least to us) was the outpouring of sympathy and offers of help from members of the Derry congregation, many of whom we didn’t even know. Hand-delivered flowers, apple cakes, a stunning prayer shawl, and numerous cards with handwritten notes of encouragement were indicative of Derry community’s commitment to care for its parishioners.
Sometimes, when one reflects upon past events and their influence, one can see what Marcy would call “God winks,” events that display God’s grace without great fanfare, but rather with a whisper that says, “I’ve got this; here’s a special gift to ease your burdens.” Derry Church is one such “God wink.” How could we know that the clergy and the members would be right where we needed them, when we needed them? Perhaps we didn’t need to know. “God winks” arrive without our requesting them or deserving them. They simply reflect God’s grace, most often through faithful, unselfish messengers, like the community that is Derry Presbyterian Church.