One of the first people I met at New Church is someone I think of as Madame Pillar. Actually, she's someone I often think of as "Scary Pillar." She is old, deeply intelligent, opinionated, cranky, fervently, devoutly Reformed, and more than a little nostalgic for an experience of church that is not likely to be repeated in her lifetime.
When I arrived I went to visit her immediately, for two reasons. First, she had been ill, hospitalized shortly before I arrived, and I knew her to be at home recovering. But, less nobly on my behalf, her reputation had preceded her. She was known for her opinions on the prior pastor's poor record of visitation. I figured, a stop by couldn't hurt.
I found a tall woman, probably of formerly regal bearing, but now depleted with an illness of many months, the origins of which were still hazy for her doctors. They'd operated, in hopes of relieving her symptoms, but even when I saw her she had her doubts about the efficacy of the surgery.
She proceeded to give me a rather lengthy lecture on the pitiful state of the church in our presbytery, on the pitiful attributes of my predecessor, and on what she perceived to be the needs of New Church, right now. At a certain point she took a breath and said, "I suppose I sound bitter." At which point a friend, sitting quietly until that moment, piped up, "You do, T! You do!" I ventured a guess. "I think what I'm hearing is someone who loves her church passionately, and who wants to see it survive and thrive for future generations." Her eyes swam with tears. From that moment on, she has loved me.
Madame Pillar is still not well. I saw her last night and was aghast at her weight. She has dropped 30 lbs since my arrival, and had dropped 40 prior to that. She is not well, and the medical establishment has all but thrown up its hands.
Prayers, please, for this saint of the church, and for all who find themselves aging, failing, struggling.