My daughter and I moved to Pleasant Hill from Berkeley after my father's death in September 2003. I visited Church of the Resurrection on the first Sunday of Advent. The first few weeks after my father's death were filled moving to an apartment, preparations for a Memorial Service, and family. However, as things began to settle down and I began to find my way around Pleasant Hill, I knew that it was also time to find my way to a church. My father had been a Lutheran Pastor and I had grown up in the Lutheran church. I was confirmed Episcopalian in my late 20's so, while not being new to Episcopalian, I had not attended any parishes in Contra Costa County. As I began the search for a new church, I was grieving, raw and felt isolated. I knew I needed a community to worship with, but I wanted to take enough time to find the right place.
During my first visit to Church of the Resurrection I noted that the parish buildings and grounds looked well cared for. I also noted that the folks attending the 10:00 service were chatty, but also present in their worship of God. I found the service to be a tad rowdy rather than staid. I saw that the ages of folks ranged from infants to elders, rather than being a parish of primarily young families or primarily older families. The children appeared to be both valued AND a part of the worship setting. ALL of this was pleasing to me. Something unexpected also caught my eye, the fireplace. I had never seen one as part of a worship space in any other Episcopal church that I have attended. As a person that loves the symbolic, this one thing became a portal for me to enter into the community of the Church of the Resurrection.
In Greek mythology, the keeper of the hearth was Hestia. Her task was to keep the sacred flame alight. In our own homes, we too may prepare the fireplace by making sure the earth is clean and that there is wood and matches. When we light a fireplace we inevitably gather around it. This gathering together feels like a sacred gathering, and often may be so, as people talk among themselves, or sit in silence watching the flames. At the Church of the Resurrection the fireplace is generally not lit, and we adults gather around the Word and the Sacrament. However, the younger children gather on the carpet beside the fireplace during the sacred gathering of worship on Sundays. As they sit on the carpet, coloring, reading, or playing together they are fully participating in liturgy. And they are at home in it. This was what I was looking for as grieving daughter, an opportunity to be home. The fireplace, while held within sacred space, symbolized my own sacred longing.
In the years since my first visit, I have gradually felt at home at Church of the Resurrection. As my own academic and professional life has eased, there has been more time for me to be present. I know that as I continue to deepen in this place I will continue to reflect the symbol of the fireplace, seeing in it both sacred longing and God's love.