On Sunday, my Then Church had a party.
You should know that thirty-ish years ago, my parents moved to this area of New England with little me and littler Brother-Dave and, with the help of some stalwart families and I would say also God, got a little church started out here.
The church isn’t so little anymore (neither are my brother or I), and it’s still going strong, so last weekend they had a celebration of the anniversary of their existence. My parents were still here from Christmas, so my dad got to preach in the morning. I went to my Now Church and kicked off our new Sunday school rotation (i.e., got the kids all wound up) and then headed over to Then Church for the service. It was a great sermon, and I’m not just being biased (although I probably am a bit biased). The thing that moved me, though, was . . . well, first, just that I was moved, I think.
Somewhere in the last few years before I started working at Now Church, I think I started taking the place for granted or something. And maybe in a way I needed to. I mean, maybe that was the only way I was going to get kicked out of the nest and find the Next Thing at Now Church. I feel like I’m kind of bungling my way through relationships and tasks there, but I also feel like the place is a good fit for me and it’s where God wants me to be for now. But over the weekend I was able reconnect with things about Then Church that I think I had sort of lost sight of in the familiarity.
For one thing, even though I missed the Slideshow of Embarrassing Photos that was shown that night, a lot of memories came pushing their way back into my head anyway. My favourite ones are definitely of being in youth group myself and literally helping to build the church’s first building. But there were people I hadn’t thought of in years who, if they weren’t physically present either that morning or evening, still made an appearance in my consciousness that Sunday. There have been a few things going on in Then Church recently that trouble me, but as I sat in the second building, I was able to see again the things that they’re doing right, and the things that God has done through that church in the past and is still doing.
I’m working on crying less these days, but I almost cried that morning–tears of gratitude. I’m grateful I grew up with a church. I’m grateful for the memories of youth group there, and for all the adults who so deeply and intentionally invested in me and the other kids. I’m happy that there’s still an emphasis on children and youth and missions. And I’m grateful for parents like mine: flexible but uncompromising in their beliefs and conduct, open-hearted and authentic, devoted to God above all things, but loving their family and their church family as a reflection of that devotion.
As I’ve been mulling over the anniversary and my own heritage within that church, it occurs to me that my parents grew up with that church, too. I’m pretty sure they bungled some relationships and opportunities in those early days just as I’ve been doing at Now Church. But maybe–and I truly hope this is the case–I can see not only my past through my parents. Maybe they can also give me a vision for my future. I really pray that God will ultimately live through my life as clearly and effectively as He’s living through theirs.