Tuesday, May 17, 2011
the church who baptized me...
What my church taught me.
I grew up in Conroe, Texas.
Some jokingly called it Corn-roe.
When I was young it was a small town.
Conroe is on the southern edge of East Texas.
Lots of pine trees and as politics and religion goes
very to fairly conservative would be the range of diversity...
especially when I was young.
I was a member of the Presbyterian Church
which used to sit on the corner of San Jacinto and Davis streets.
It wasn't the easiest of locations to find...
but people did find the church.
About 800 or so people were members of the church
when I was in High School.
When growing up it was my
understanding and experience
that we were one of the few
churches in town that allowed moderate diversity
in beliefs and social/cultural attitudes.
We were the first in town to ordain women.
I also remember one of my High School leaders
talked about divorce and how the Presbyterian church
had become her refuge and had provided
compassion and nurture to her and for her family.
Another leader talked about his experience
of being asked to leave the Baptist church.
They didn't much like the questions he asked
or the fact that he smoked cigarettes.
He encouraged us not to smoke!
But he also helped us to dig deeper
into faith and to see past superficial things
and how important it is to listen to the stories
of people....the whole story.
I learned about such things as:
unconditional grace and unity,
peace and justice in a time
when racial issues and tension were still at peek levels.
I learned that we were not expected to be different
when we came to church...
in other words the person we were at school
was the person we were at church
and the person we were at church
was the person we were at school.
We learned that God loved us long before
we could profess our love of God.
We learned that nothing could separate us form God's love....
We learned that our teachers and
leaders and pastors
were real people with strengths and weaknesses,
joys and brokenness.
All these things made faith relevant.
At least they did for me.
Many, if not a majority of the young people
I grew up with in the church have left the church.
Statistics and stories tell this story.
Yet I remained. I sensed something...
I sensed God's presence...
I sensed God's calling and I stayed.
I was confirmed when I was in 5th grade.
I was affirmed and welcomed as a leader
when I was in High School and College.
I served for two summers as the Youth Director
in my home church.....two summers
I remember with great fondness.
I worked with 5th graders to Senior Highs.
We played and studied and traveled and worshiped.
Later I sat with the leaders of the church who had baptized
and confirmed me and shared my story of God's calling....
that I sensed a call to enter the ministry.
The session sponsored me as a candidate for ministry.
Later, I was married in the church who baptized,
confirmed and sponsored me as a candidate for ministry.
I was married on the same steps my parents had married in 1952.
I cherish my journey of faith within the community called
First Presbyterian Church in Conroe.
They are what I call my home church.
I've learned volumes from my home church family....
through the years I've learned how to be the church
and how not to be the church.
Great conflict has been part of the story....
difficult pastoral relationships,
a church fire, even a split in membership.
But also there has been new life and new beginnings.
I am thankful for my home church.
I am in awe that my name appears on a brass plaque
among many others....
a plaque placed on the back wall of the sanctuary
upon the 75th anniversary of the church.
I was one of the few members who entered the ministry.
I'm thinking my name was placed on that plaque
because the church is thankful and proud
of my journey into ministry.
At least that is what I was told.
This is part of my story...
it is a big part of my story....
my home church story is part of every era of my life.
And this is why I care deeply to this day what continues to happen there....among the people who have loved me and known me
all these years.
So today I say thank you to those saints
who have nurtured my life and my faith.
I also pray that the church in Conroe
will continue to be a vital part of the denomination.
This is part of my story and my prayer.