Sunday, April 01, 2007

Saying Goodbye

I was asked to be the lay leader today at church, and I also gave the mission moment about my time at H___ Baptist Church. Here is what I said during the mission moment:

H____ Baptist Church is the third church that I have joined.

The first church I joined was the church of my childhood. It was the church where I learned the stories: bible stories, stories about missionaries, and faith stories. The Sunday School teachers nurtured me. The Women’s Missionary Union leaders encouraged me to get involved. I sang in the choir. I completed mission action projects. I participated in Christmas plays. I sat beside my Grandma so many Sundays. As a young child, I was disruptive sometimes and had to be taken out of the sanctuary during worship. At age four, I remember thinking to myself that I was a big girl now, and I had to start keeping my eyes closed when prayers were being said.

The church of my childhood was where I first encountered death. Beloved leaders of the church passed away—sometimes all too sudden and at a young age. But it was also a place where I encountered life—true life, eternal life. It was in that church that I walked the aisle and gave my heart to Jesus, and I was baptized when I was eight. It was a place of seeking God’s will for my life as I started to realize that I was being called to do God’s ministry on earth.

The church of my childhood is not perfect. There have been bitter divisions over the years. Members have left because of conflict. People have been hurt by words and attitudes. But even through it all, this church has been a part of my spiritual journey.

The second church I joined was the church where I took a stand theologically. On a Sunday in June in the year 2000, I joined that church so that my gifts could be affirmed. I had begun attending that church ten years ago—just after I married my dh, for it was the church of his childhood. I later asked if I could complete my internship at that church because somewhere along the line I realized that church members are not supposed to be passive listeners but active participants.

It was a church that taught me how to listen, how to speak, how to learn within the context of ministry. The church members offered a lot of feedback and a lot of encouragement. I was licensed to the gospel ministry by that church. The staff became my friends. It was not a perfect church—I have attended deacon’s meetings to attest to that fact. There were discussions about whether to display an American flag outside the church. There were discussions about baptism and how it applied to new members who had not been a part of a Baptist church. There were your usual dramas and power struggles that go on in any group. Yet I found a church that could understand me and my spiritual journey and support me.

I was still a member of that church when I moved to the Triangle. I thought since I was about to graduate with my Masters of Divinity that I would not change my membership until I was called to that church where I would work. But that was not to be.

The third church I joined was H_____ Baptist Church. And it is in this church that I have learned about love and service. From 2002 to mid-2004, I had not been an active part of any church. We visited a church in Morrisville for a while when we were living near RTP. But we did not join because I thought I would not be able to stay for long if I was called to a position. In June 2004, my family moved to north Raleigh. I knew that I would find a church where I could be an active member once my family was settled. Within a month, I had begun attending H_____ Baptist Church.

It was unlike any church that I had ever attended. First, there was a sense of community. Perhaps because the church is so young, the members make visitors feel welcome and seek to engage them in worship and the weekly activities. Second, there was a sense of acceptance. It was perfectly fine for my then two-year-old ds to make a little noise during worship. This church supports families of all kinds. Third, there was a sense of vision. This church is not a church based on programs and tradition. It is a church that sees needs and works to address them. And it is all about love.

I am a part of a church that encouraged me to stand and proclaim the good news. I am a part of a church that welcomes my toddler into a Sunday School room and doesn’t mind it when he chooses a loud toy to pick up. I am part of a church that offered me care after my second ds was born and after my grandma passed away. I am a part of a church where I can see that members have an investment in the health of the congregation—where they seek to deal with conflict in positive ways and do not create power struggles. I am a part of a church where my biracial children do not have to feel that they are different because we have many races here. I am a part of this church. I come here with joy because I know that when I hit that door, I feel the presence of God. And God’s love for me is present when I am in this place. It is not a perfect church—nothing on this side of heaven is perfect. There is still a lot of growth to come. There will still be conflicts that arise. There will always be some who disagree with a theological stand that this church takes. But it is a place where I have found a fellowship of faith, hope, and love.

H_____ Baptist Church is a place where I can serve God. Since it is a small church and not program driven like older churches, there is an initiative for all members to be involved. It amazes me to see the members here step into roles of leadership and nurturing. We are a people who are attentive to the Holy Spirit and do not seek to just be fed during worship on Sunday morning. At least, that is the way I see this community of faith.

H_____ Baptist Church is the third church I have joined.

Next week, I will join another church. I have been called. For so long I have waited for God to show me where I would go. But I admit that in leaving this church, I feel that the call has come too soon. I ask for your prayers and your blessing. Thank you.

1 comment:

April said...

What a wonderful and meaningful tribute and challenge you gave them! I think as a congregant my heart would have swelled to the point of bursting to hear this.

You are going to do SO well, ALin!! What a gift you are!