May 10

This I Believe – Nellie Staley

By Marsh Chapel

Click here for audio of the sermon only.

Good morning. My name is Nellie Staley, and I’m a graduating law student.

When I moved to Boston to start law school nearly three years ago, I didn’t know anyone in Boston. No family, no friends, no acquaintances, not even some random person that I went to school with 10 years ago. I mean, NO ONE.

But let me backtrack a little. Growing up, I attended church every Sunday… until I was confirmed in 8th grade, and then (for various reasons), I stopped going to church. That’s not to say I stopped being faithful. I continued to attend “church camp” every summer, and I considered my faith to be a central part of my life. But I was not part of a religious community.

Sometime during my senior year of college, one of my – we’ll say “spiritual mentors” – told me that I needed to find a church, that being part of a community was part of being Christian. So I did. I found a church that I attended regularly, and I enjoyed the service, and I thought that I was doing what I had been told. But I wasn’t, because I still wasn’t part of the community.

Which brings me to Boston: I got here, and decided that I needed a church home, if for no other reason than comfort. I did not know a soul, and I needed to find some place in this city that felt like… relief. The only way I can describe it is that I felt like I was in a foreign country where I didn’t speak the language, and I was desperate to find the American Embassy.

Maybe my second week of law school, I came to Marsh Chapel. And no offense to Dean Hill, but what made me come back the next Sunday was the choir. Truly majestic. And after that next Sunday, little by little, I began to be absorbed into the Marsh community… and that has made all the difference.

I now have multiple sets of friends, and adoptive parents and grandparents, who ask me how my classes are going, let me know when they won’t be around next Sunday, and talk to me about everything from Barack Obama to Ayn Rand to the Book of John.

How moving it is to watch your brothers and sisters in Christ receive communion. How moving it is to hear them singing in the pew behind you – and how much more so when you recognize the voice. I don’t think I quite understood what Jesus really meant when he commanded us to “love one another as I have loved you” until I came to Boston.

The latest lesson in my spiritual journey – this I believe: I can sense God’s love in the flowers of the Public Garden, the water of the Boston Harbor, the laughter on the BU Beach. But all this cannot compare to the depth of God’s love that I can feel in the presence of my church community – my Marsh Chapel family.

And so I am pleased to say today, to Cecelia, Darlene, Glenice, Sandra, Barbara, Faith, Carolyn, Elizabeth, Nancy, Alice, Mel, Joanne, Bev, Jan, Victoria, Susan, and my mom who is listening in Pittsburgh: Happy Mother’s Day.

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