|The cafe at Two Rocks|
Lisa wrote quickly to say that she’d gotten my voice mail message. She suggested we meet the next morning, a Friday, “at Stbx. in the Lowe’s Center.”
John sent back a friendly message saying Lisa’s proposed time wouldn’t work because he conducted a church service each Friday morning. He mentioned other possible times and added, “Sorry! I don’t know where the Lowe’s center is or what Stbx stands for. It’s my age!!...God bless. John.”
Lisa had undoubtedly heard that some pastors were out of touch, but what was with me? Granted, the Lowe’s reference was a little obscure, at least if I wasn’t into home improvement. (I’m not. Just ask Kathy.) But even a non-stockholder ought to know what Stbx means. Lisa was beginning to think that I lived in a monastery or maybe a cave under the St. John’s altar. Even at this point in the correspondence, a person would be excused if she went looking for another church. But Lisa’s kindness and patience held fast. She wrote, “Stbx is short for Starbucks and it’s the one in the Lowe’s shopping center in RSM.”
One more aspect of the reply bugged her. She had heard me make a big deal about our new weekly fellowship ministry, but I didn’t even know where it met. It was obvious I wasn’t paying attention to what was going on in my own church. She wrote, ”I think it’s where St. John’s has Happy Hour on Fridays.”
She asked if I was free the following Wednesday. The next reply she received fell into the category of one step forward, one step back. Her befuddled prospective pastor said that he’d be free anytime after noon. That was progress. But then he added, “So it would just be getting wherever RSM is? Let me know what time and the where and we will be on to meet. It will just be how long it takes to get there from Yanchep. Blessings. John.”
“Yanchep” might have been a hint that Pastor John really was living on another planet, or at least another continent. Lisa’s reply is my favorite in the whole thread: “RSM is Rancho Santa Margarita. I think Wednesday at 12:30 wld be great. If I’m late it’s because I’m coming from Yanchep to the Lowe’s Stbx.”
John was the first to punt to Google. “I think we have got each other confused with different people,” he wrote. “I am in Yanchep Western Australia and Rancho Santa Margarita is in America. If not and you’re in the same Yanchep why not meet at the Lagoon or the café at Two Rocks?”
My address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Lisa had written to email@example.com and reached, it was now obvious, a different Pastor John. When she shared the e-mail thread with me, Lisa suggested that the title of my next sermon – or Vaya article, I hope she’ll allow -- might be “the Misfortune of Misunderstanding.” Because it entailed waiting for understanding and connection, it’s a great Advent story. Lisa’s gifts of patience and good humor despite Pastor John’s moments of cluelessness and John’s own unstinting, cheerful hospitality are all essential virtues for dealing with those we love at Christmas. So good on them both!
This post first appeared in the Vaya Con Dios, the newsletter of St. John's Episcopal Church.