Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

A God of Infinite Mercy

This morning, Father Neal Goldsborough of Christ Church Pensacola gave a sermon that held us all totally spellbound. It had to do with the fundamentalist preacher who – once again – forecast the coming rapture, which he says was scheduled for yesterday. (I wonder what he has to say today? He was wrong once before, in 1994. Or maybe people were raptured yesterday, but all the folk I know are, like me, sinners who didn’t make the cut.)

Father Neal talked about his service in the chaplain corp overseas, and faiths which exclude based on narrow rules, specific rules, churches and religions who say ‘this is the only way and all the rest of you are damned to everlasting fire” whether they use those words or paraphrases. He pointed to Jesus, who broke the rules of his time and flagrantly spent time with sinners, and the unclean, and showed them by his love and by his actions what the infinite love and mercy and forgiveness of Almighty God looks like.

It couldn’t have come at a better time for me.

Soon, I will be meeting up with three women who are particularly dear to me, friends for many years in Qatar, friends who worshipped at the Church of the Epiphany in Doha, Qatar. The new Anglican Church of the Epiphany is being built on land dedicated to church use by His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, the Emir of Qatar, and will be used by many denominations.

My friends and I all returned to the USA within months of one another, and have been sending e-mails with “reply to all” as we struggle with our re-entry into our old church communities. We struggle with the hatreds and prejudices and ignorance about our Moslem brothers and sisters, and we struggle with the narrow strictures imposed by our churches and study groups. I thank God to have these wonderful women among whom we can share our dismay and our hurting hearts, and re-inforce the lessons we learned living in a very exotic, and sometimes alien culture, but which had so many wonderful and mighty lessons to teach us. I often joke that in my life, God kept sending me back to the Middle East (Tunisia, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait) until he saw that I finally got it. My sisters-in-faith were quicker studies than I was. πŸ™‚

It was a breath of the Holy Spirit I felt this morning, as Father Neal spoke about God’s mercy, his plan to redeem ALL of his creation, God’s desire for our love and our service. I couldn’t help it, it made me weep with relief to know my church is a church that serves God by including, rather than excluding, and which mercifully welcomes sinners like me.

Here is the really cool part. Christ Church Pensacola has recently begun putting the sermons online. If there is one thing Christ Church has, it is great sermons – and if you want to hear Father Neal’s sermon, you can click HERE, in a few days and you can hear his sermon for yourself. πŸ™‚ Look for the May 22 sermon by Father Neal Goldsborough.


May 22, 2011 - Posted by | Adventure, Bureaucracy, Character, Civility, Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Friends & Friendship, Jordan, Language, Leadership, Living Conditions, Middle East, Moving, Pensacola, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Spiritual, Tunisia


  1. The issue of finding a new church home upon our return to the US is something I’ve been worried about for the exact reasons you describe (and others). I went to church on Easter Sunday when I visited New England Town. It was our chose denomination, and the service was lovely, but it seemed clear that it wasn’t a good “fit” for our family (no obvious youth group and it didn’t seem terribly active in the sense of outreach and community service). This means we’ll need to do some church-hunting when we move, and that brings its own awkwardness. Add to that the issues one faces coming from the Middle East and learning to live quite fine alongside the Muslim community, and there’s so much room for even more awkwardness. I feel very protective of my students in particular, and I’ve had to defend them over the past two years from the ignorance and hateful remarks from people in my home state and town. I shouldn’t also have to do that in church. If I’m put in that position, I’m afraid it will drive me away. We were so blessed to have a wonderful pastor in our old college town, and I don’t think we’ll ever find another like him…But I guess we’ll have to keep looking.

    Comment by AcadeMama | May 23, 2011 | Reply

  2. AcadeMama, it is so important that you find others who have lived overseas with whom you can vent. We are very lucky; in our church there are many prior military, and many who have traveled widely and lived abroad. We were at a party the other night, and a surprising number of people there had ties to Qatar – knew where it was, had family members who had lived there. We run into many service people who have served in Kuwait. It’s a surprising world we live in. I wish you the very best finding a church which will meet your needs and give you support in your transition back. πŸ™‚

    Comment by intlxpatr | May 24, 2011 | Reply

  3. I very interesting read. Realize how busy I am and have taken little or no time to read other’s blogs of late. I like what you heard.

    Comment by Mary Margaret Hansen | June 8, 2011 | Reply

  4. MMH, totally get the time thing. πŸ™‚ Isn’t it strange how rare these messages of inclusion are? Isn’t that supposed to be what we are all about? My skin almost itches when I get into a situation where some are included and others are not.

    Comment by intlxpatr | June 8, 2011 | Reply

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