Tuesday, May 17, 2011

the church who baptized me...

What my church taught me.

I grew up in Conroe,
Some jokingly called it

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
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.

800 or so people were members of the church
when I was in High School.
When growing up it was my
and experience
that we were one of the few

churches in town that allowed moderate
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
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
and pastors
were real people with
strengths and weaknesses,
joys and brokenness.

All these things made faith relevant.

At least they did for me.

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
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
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
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
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.

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