Moving is never easy, and clergy families do it a lot. So far, in 23 years of marriage, my husband and I have served in six different appointments in two states. Each church has its own way of welcoming my husband, our son, and me.
A few months into our current appointment in Atlanta, a church member named Kris held a party to welcome me as the new clergy spouse. Kris is very much an artist, infusing everything she does with her creative talents. Aware of my work with prayer beads, she invited everyone at the party to make felted “beads.” We gathered around her kitchen, where she had laid out a gorgeous selection of wool roving. She showed us how to tear small pieces from the various colors of wool, combine them, and roll the wool into balls. We then lathered the balls with warm, soapy detergent, all the while massaging and shaping the material. The longer we rolled, the more the wool fused together into a solid object. The process was messy, tactile, and fun.
As we lathered and rolled, we chatted. We talked about our families, the work we do, our hobbies, and our hopes. The church members wanted to know how we were settling into our new house and appointment. They shared recommendations for restaurants and local doctors. I listened as they talked about the history of Inman Park, our new neighborhood, and what they loved about living here: gatherings on front porches; the Festival; the diverse, quirky nature of the ‘hood; and the Beltline. I learned about their lives, and they learned about mine. Our hands coated with soapy, goopy wool, we were creating a new sense of community.
As each person finished making his or her ball, Kris guided each one into another room while I stayed in the kitchen chatting with the remaining crafters. Once everyone had done this, Kris invited me into the living room, where the group presented me with a garland made up of the felted “beads.” Hanging along the garland were handwritten notes that each person had written — blessings to welcome me to the church. I was deeply touched.
This garland is so special and hangs on my prayer wall. It forms an arc over the other pieces on my wall, a mantle of sorts enveloping the symbols of my life in God. Every day as I pray, it reminds me of this community’s hospitality and warm welcome for me and our family. It reminds me of that afternoon in Kris’s kitchen where we rolled and chatted and formed bonds. It reminds me of God’s deep love and the many creative ways God reveals that love to me.
This spring we were shocked to learn the Cabinet is appointing my husband to a new church. Just three short years after we gathered around Kris’s kitchen, we will be moving — again. We thought we had more time. We still had plans and hopes for our time in Inman Park. Instead, we will soon be packing boxes and saying very painful, heartfelt goodbyes. Then we will unpack and gather in new kitchens where we will again share our lives, receive recommendations, and create new forms of community. And while these times may not involve wool roving and dish detergent, they will still involve the deep love of a God who is always creating and rolling and forming us for God’s kingdom.
Thanks be to God!
Kristen E. Vincent is the author of three books on Protestant prayer beads:; ; and . She is also a speaker and artisan with a passion for spiritual formation and using prayer beads. Kristen is a graduate of (#34), Duke Divinity School (master’s in theology), and Trinity University (bachelor’s degree in religion). A native Texan, Kristen loves dark chocolate, Texas Hill Country, stories about the early church, and working from home in her pajamas. To learn more, visit .