We had learned beforehand that Joan is from California and came here as an intern and then an interim pastor before deciding to stay. Being from a small town myself and knowing how Appalachians are often uncomfortable with "come-heres" I was expecting there to be something of a square peg round hole situation. California and Appalachia have fairly distinct cultures after all. I was happy to see that Joan was thrilled (if a little surprised) to be living in Hazard. And the congregants were just overflowing with gratitude for her presence! We sat in a tight circle and she led the group in worship that struck me as very emergent with a California flavor and the group was right there with her. I later learned that their worship is generally a traditional 1950's style Disciples service. It is quite a testament to the power of relationship that Joan and her congregation are able to share
their worship styles with each other and everyone is comfortable and happy. No doubt being in an informal setting helped too.
The message was about the Magi and their twists and turns and detours. Joan talked about how our paths are generally full of twists and turns - like car accidents and ending up in Kentucky. I could definitely relate having just had a couple of weeks full of unexpectedness and plan changes. In that comfortable circle Joan's words and calm presence reminded me that God is present with me on my crazy winding path and that there is a rhyme and reason to things even when I can't see it.
My trip has been full of surprises so far - like the fact that the congregation was not as elderly as we were expecting. Today we visited a state of the art hospital, a thrift shop, another Disciples church, the number one custom motor sports shop in the country, and applebees. Tomorrow its a coal mine and a rural medical clinic.