Monday, November 14, 2011

50th Anniversary

I drove an hour to attend church last Sunday.  Driving an hour each way to attend a service, while not uncommon for me, is not the norm. 

It all started fifty years ago when my father gathered to himself a small congregation of believers into his house and offered them fellowship, service, and a sense of purpose.  My father routinely invited people into our house.  We had people come to our house to meet privately with my father. We had noteworthy and memorable guests for dinner.  We even had the occasional house guest stay with us for extended periods.  Our house’s guests ranged from new-born babies to old, from ordinary blind people to extraordinary dignitaries, and any number of people suffering or otherwise needing help.  So, a gathering of people wanting to form a church was nothing unusual for my household.

My father was up to the task.  Amongst his many skills and professions, my father was an ordained minister.  With the help of his house guests, my father started a church.  My father took no income from the church and instead insisted the money raised be divided in half between missionary work both in the community and around the world and the other half for bills and other expenses.  Expenses like a mortgage on a carriage house and stables.  The church was growing and needed more room than our home’s living room.

Fifty years later, the church celebrated the anniversary of its founding.  I drove there to meet my mother and siblings, and to see how the church was getting on.  I felt the gentle tug of sadness over the loss of the original buildings to the accidental fire years before.  There was the joy of seeing the resilience of the congregation to indebt themselves in another mortgage, rebuilding the building into another beautiful building.  I loved seeing the simplicity retained over the years and was overjoyed to discover the church still values missionary outreach as strong as it did when it began.

Fifty years has passed.  The church is strong.  The core values remain.  What a blessing to see a small seed blossom into such a great, living tree.  The congregation looks for people in need and look to fulfill them.  Boys and Girls clubs, school systems, and victims of crimes (including the innocent children of convicted felons): all are causes the church has given time, knowledge and money to support and improve.

I drove an hour to attend church last Sunday.  What was the sermon about?  How grace is more than simply a one-on-one relationship with God.  It extends to both sides as we emulate the same relationship with have with God to our fellow man. “Love God with all your heart and with all your soul. The second rule is to love your neighbor in a like manner.”