Where Can I Flee from Your Presence?

Thank you for your radical hospitality!  Adam (my husband) and I are excited to be part of the University UMC community.  We loved coming into the parsonage to find a laundry basket full of cleaning supplies and kitchen towels…. of course, we had to make a mess before we could use the cleaning supplies!  The house was beautifully prepared.  You all outdid yourselves in the “Parsonage Blitz”—including freshly painted closets, redone floors, rewired electrical sockets, clean cabinets, carpet removal, and so much more. 

Rev. Diane and Rev. Dr. Adam in WV

Rev. Diane and Rev. Dr. Adam in WV

We are happy to find our home here.  Over and over you have said to Adam and me: “Be You. Be Loved. Belong.”  You remind us, in the words of Psalm 139, to pray: “Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast…”

Driving nine hours from West Virginia to St. Louis, I reflected on the phrase, “Where can I go from your spirit?”  I’ve learned that I can never go farther than the Holy Spirit. 

I’m from West Virginia, the part of the Appalachian Mountains that people call “Almost Heaven.”  Some of you who have been part of the Appalachian Service Project know what this means! 

So how did I get here to St. Louis?  I graduated from the University of Richmond in Richmond, VA, where I studied Spanish & International Studies.  After working for a summer in Nicaragua, on a mission project I helped start inhigh school, I went to Emory University in Atlanta for seminary.  I specialized in Biblical Studies and earned a certificate in Women in Theology & Ministry.  I also met my husband, Adam Ployd.  We both had a strong sense of calling—him to seminary teaching and me to pastoring. And yet it felt that God was nudging us toward each other.  Our vocational calls were rooted in our baptisms… and our marriage covenant would also be rooted in our baptismal covenant.  How would this work?

I returned to West Virginia after seminary and there served two churches that were ten miles away from where I grew up.  I left Adam in Atlanta.  We prayed a lot. “‘Your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast.’  God, what does this look like? How do we know for sure that your hand leads us?” 

We began to trust God that our individual vocational callings and our marriage—as long as they remained rooted in our baptisms—would work together for the good.  We got married in May 2013 and Adam moved almost immediately to St. Louis to teach at Eden Theological Seminary.  It was a tenure-track position that meant we were moving to St. Louis for the long haul.

We spent the first year of our marriage driving long distances and talking way too much on Skype.  I worried and worried about what sort of appointment I would receive in a new annual conference.  Would the bishop realize my passions for multicultural, intergenerational, justice-oriented ministry?  Was there a church in St Louis that had a mission, vision, and values that lined up with my calling and gifts? 

On good days, my worries turned into prayers.  Eventually, I prayed a prayer of release—“God, I submit this into your hands… If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.”  Soon after, the superintendent of the Gateway Central District in Missouri called.  There was a church!  And not just any church—this was University United Methodist Church. This was the church where I had met an incredible pastor, Rev. Jill, and where Adam had chosen to worship on multiple occasions.  This was a church that is passionate about mission and service—that longs to become an intergenerational, international, intercultural beacon for the greater University City community.  This was a church where I could “Be You. Be Loved. Belong.”  And this was a church that wanted to invite others to do the same.

Today I’m excited to call St Louis home.  In between unpacking boxes, I’ve been getting to know St Louis—from getting sunburned at Fair St Louis to eating a concrete at Ted Drewes.  I’m even more excited to call University UMC home.  Together, we’ll build on our mission, vision, and values. We’ll invite others to join us. And rooted in our baptismal covenant, God will lead us in ways that are even more spectacular than we can imagine.