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  • Pastor Nancy Switzler

A Tale of Two Crosses

Dear Friends,

Let me tell you a story about a couple of crosses (see photo). The small cross was purchased with financial gifts I received when I graduated from seminary. This was way back in 2006. The other was purchased in Mexico. That could be the end of the story, but then it wouldn’t be much of a story. That’s how it is with stories…it’s the details and even detours that make it important (at least to the storyteller).

So, this particular story began in 2005, with Hurricane Katrina. Remember the devastation? A few months after, I checked with a dog shop (Chihuagaga) to see how they were doing. On their website, they commented that the French Quarter did not flood, BUT they “really need tourists to come back”.

A week or so later Scott and I were planning our vacation and decided to go to New Orleans, in response to the call for post hurricane relief in the form of tourist dollars. We had a wonderful trip, meeting many people who were so happy to see us visiting and spending money. At a cooking class we met someone whose home was destroyed. She graciously took us and another couple on a detailed tour of the city. Well, that was a story within a story. So, what about the cross?

First, I must comment that I am not much into jewelry. But, I was starting a career as a pastor, and saw the need for a cross or two. Anyway, we visited a jewelry store and I found that smaller cross. It was not inexpensive, but I had graduation money. So I splurged and bought it. Whenever I wear it, I am reminded of this trip.

The larger cross was purchased a couple years later in Cuernavaca, Mexico. I was there for Spanish language school. One afternoon some of us browsed one of the local crafts markets and I saw this cross. It was 450 pesos. I didn’t buy it that day, but kept thinking about it. With the exchange rate, 450 pesos was less than $50 – a bargain! The day before coming home I went back and bought it. Some fellow students told me I was supposed to haggle, and I could have, but I felt like I didn’t need to. If the seller thought they got the better deal, then we both were happy.

These stories can be examples of how I see myself in the world…or at least, how I would like to be perceived. In this case the point is not necessarily the events that occurred, but how I chose to describe them…how I choose to remember them.

Stories help us to place ourselves, to share ourselves with other, to articulate our values, and often, to help navigate the present and future.

In the same way stories are important to congregations. What are the stories told?

What do they say about the values the community holds dear?

According to the author of this book, “Most organizations have stories that they tell themselves about why they work the way they do, why they care about what they do, or where their problems stem from.”

In times of transition, we are invited to “come to terms” with our stories. To celebrate the good. Lament the bad. To decide (as a community) how these stories can shape the future. I like to think of stories in this context in relation to the Israelites wandering in the desert. The work of coming to terms with history is the work of deciding what needs to be left in the desert and what can be carried forward. Sometimes what needs to be left behind was something good that is no longer useful in today’s context. I look forward to hearing more of the stories of American Lutheran Church.

Peace in Christ,

Pastor Nancy

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