Here's the church, and here's the steeple
Open the door and see all the people.
Open the door and see all the people.
This summer we inteded to go to our church's new, small contemporary Sunday night services so we could do family type-things, leisurely together on Sunday mornings. While that lasted a couple weeks with good cheer, Anna Cate said on Saturday night a few weeks ago, "Let's go to Sunday morning church. I miss everyone."
I can relate. Church family has been a part of my life, my entire life. I grew up in a small town church where I sat on the pew with my grandmother and held her hand every Sunday. I loved Vacation Bible School as a child, and my mother was the youth leader when Douglas and I were teenagers. The first Sunday I went to a Methodist church in my college town of Mount Vernon, it was raining and a lady befriended me by offering me a ride home. Ruth's husband, Steve, was the football coach at Cornell College and she and I had a special friendship where we went to the away football games together.
I didn't go to church regularly in college my freshman year but when a tragedy occured in my circle of friends my sophomore year, my dad called Emory Gillespie, the Presbyterian minister in town who was from South Carolina and he hoped to help me see a connection. She invited us girls to her home for dinner and introduced me to French press coffee over pleasant conversation. Emory and I became dear friends and I regularly attended that church through college, taught Sunday school and enjoyed spiritual and social nourishment.
When I moved to Fredericksburg, I recognized the face of a friend of my brother's from his college days at VMI.. Norah. She invited me to church and I sat with other friends of my brother's, who became my friends, Mary Helen and LC Smith. While attending this church, I stopped a woman in the hallway of the high school where I taught and said, "hi, I'm Sarah. I recognize you from church and I just wanted to introduce myself." That woman would be the grandmother of my children. Several months later, Norah introduced me to BJ, who had just moved back to town, and encouraged me to accept his invitation for a date.
There is much about churches today that embarass me. There is a lot to criticize about church people, but my parents showed me and taught me that you find good people in church.....people I might miss in life, much like Anna Cate and the regular Sunday mornig crowd. My relationship with people of faith in churches has enriched my life, my spiritual journey and my family.
I've written often about the special place that is Fredericksburg Baptist Church and the people who make up our church family, and Sunday night Anna Cate accepted an invitation to join them.
We went to the Sunday evening service and when David said simply at the end of the service, "I'm here if you want to join our church," Anna Cate raised her hand. I smiled at Patti and said, "is this just so you can take communion?" And her face dropped like I was telling her she didn't belong. So I told her if you want to go down by yourself, you are ready. As the music echoed around us, I held her and prayed outloud "Dear God, please lead Anna Cate. If now is the right time, give her the courage to walk down by herself." When we opened our eyes, she was crying and I was so moved (as well as guilt-stricken about being sarcastic about the communion bread). She walked out and Patti went down with her. At the end of the service, the small crowd welcomed her and she beamed.
Anna Cate has been talking about this for a while and asked Patti and me about baptism and communion. We don't exactly see rituals or meanings the same, but this community Anna Cate joined accepts me and I want her to learn to accept differences as well. While my spiritual journey doesn't always parallel Christianity, I'm happy to be welcoming my sweet daughter to a community of faith whose people, not necessarily dogmas, have enriched my life. At a young age with a deep soul and loving heart, Anna Cate knows the truth of belonging. I'm thankful for her and those sweet spirits who have nurtured her and who welcomed her. My prayer for her journey in joining a church is a continued sense of belonging and love wherever she may go or whichever community of faith she seeks.
I looked for some pictures to reflect this journey of hers, of ours to add to this blog. I looked for images to represent how I feel, what I think, but I really couldn't find a coherent progression or of a distinct moment that represents her decision. But what I did find is a legacy of good people...the kind you can find in church (and for the record, you find them outside of church, too)... who love her. In saw images of my grandmother and hers, for whom she is named, both women of faith. I saw many pictures of BJ's childhood friend David Haun, now minister of the church they grew up in, who asked the question Sunday night to which Anna Cate answered yes. I'm thankful for her journey and for these stories and people who have made her feel like she belongs in a family of faith, which I believe is a very large family. Welcome, sweet girl.
AnnaCateandChurch from Sarah King on Vimeo.