By Tom Ehrich

Despite some last-minute wavering, I followed through on my intention to go to church today.

My plan was just to go. Not to seek any special attention, not to "examine" their worthiness for my loyalty, but just to sit in a pew, sing along, pray along, greet a few people, thank the pastor, and to look for ways I can contribute to a ministry for justice. I didn't want to fuss. I just wanted to take the first step to joining.

I chose the nearest Episcopal church, which was Christ the King, in Stone Ridge, NY, two towns away.

God's welcome started immediately. As I was parking my car, I saw an elderly man slip on the ice and fall. I went over to help him up. His fall had broken his eyeglasses. I put them back together.

Okay, God, I get it. There's something I can do here.

A visiting preacher talked about Food for the Poor, a ministry that provides food and other basics to the desperately poor in Honduras. He challenged the congregation to build a house in the village, at a cost of $3,200. I will give to that. I also cleaned out my wallet and gave enough to buy food for one person for a year.

I felt profoundly grateful that they were providing these opportunities to give.

Poverty and justice kept being mentioned in announcements and prayers.

After worship I spoke briefly with the rector. As I talked with her, I resisted the urge to play the games we play -- dropping names, citing credentials, talking insider talk -- because I am not interested in those games any longer. I am just a guy who's new to town and looking for a way to help a faith community be faithful. It was liberating.

I felt elated as I drove home. Being welcomed by God and by a faith community is a wonderful thing.