On Sunday, January 28, 2018; I stood in front of a town hall meeting and shared my story that brought me to The Well. I was given two to three minutes, probably took five to ten and I still did not even really touch on all the details of what brought me to deliver that message. I decided that for both of you (and all others interested) that I would share in more detail here.
The Well is a United Methodist Church, and my journey to The Well is about as unlikely an event as any in my life.
Until three years ago; the thought that I would attend church, much less become an engaged and grateful member of one, was the furthest thing from my mind.
However, your mom said I could join the three of you at church if I wanted to on one Sunday morning and that was the start of my journey to The Well. A journey that I know today will never end.
Why was it unlikely?
It had been more than 30 years since I attended Church on a regular basis. I had never considered attending Church on a regular basis during that 30 plus years. In fact, Church had become to me a place where you went for weddings, funerals, baptisms, etc. My memories of Church had become ones of annoyance, boredom and one specific event that started my 30 plus year hiatus.
My memories of that event, like many from long ago, are vivid. The words clear in my head as if they happened yesterday, which interestingly enough I am more likely to forget things that happened yesterday. The words echoed from downstairs and down the hall to my bedroom where I was barely awake. “Get out of (expletive) bed it’s time to go to (expletive) Church.”
Being 13 at the time and already had grown out of my dads’ clothes I had found my voice and responded, “I’m not going to (expletive) Church you (expletive) hypocrite.”
I immediately popped out of bed, locked the door and crawled under my bed. I awaited the door to be blown off the hinges and the dragging of me kicking and screaming to another Sunday service. Not even a footstep towards my room followed and only silence continued to echo with some occasional mumbling to my younger brother and sister and then the door closing as the two of them along with Dad left without me.
I had won. I was never asked to go to Church again in any manner outside of weddings, funerals, baptisms, etc.
Let me stop for a moment to share something I hope both of you by the time you read this know. Your Papa, my Dad, has changed so much and life is so different from those days. If I think about all he did back then just to make sure we survived as a very broken family, I am in awe of the way he handled that specific situation. I truly am in awe of how much you both mean to him and know how much he means to you today.
So fast forward almost 30 years and two face masks and a kicking incident in a youth football game. Big brother was the offender.
The coach on the first offense sits you out a series, the second a full quarter and the third the rest of the game. In response you storm off intent on walking home. Your coach is yelling at you to come back and your mom heads you off and makes you come back. Your coach talks to you after the game about this game and similar incidents from previous games. The coach, with direction from the league director benches you for the next game.
I was the coach and the conflict, as much as we all tried, did not stay on the field. Our house was flooded with anger, resentment, anxiety and today; as I write this; the same type of silence and feelings I had as I laid under my bed when I decided I was going to take a stand (under my bed) and not go to Church.
The day after you served your suspension or maybe the week before, you’re Mom said to me as I laid in bed on a Sunday morning. “We’re going to Church, you can come if you want to.”
I knew it really wasn’t an option, unless I wanted to add to the negative energy that was in all of us. Well maybe not little sister who was just about one and was happy about almost everything.
So we all went. Ruth to the nursery, Graham and the rest of us to the service.
However, it was odd from the beginning. We walked past the traditional church with the altar, pews, and typical trappings. We found ourselves walking through a cafeteria where people of all ages were eating treats and the smell of coffee and sound of conversation filled the air. We walked into a gymnasium filled with chairs a up on the stage there was drummer, a guitarist, a pianist, a tambourine player and a choir decked out in not robes, but normal clothes.
We find our seats and then we are asked to stand. The music was not what I associated with Church, the members of the congregation were moving to the music and singing and clapping. I still wasn’t sold. The free coffee mug as a new attendee that we got didn’t close the deal either.
We got home and nothing really changed. The experiment had failed and Sunday’s would be mine to focus on football once again.
Then the following Sunday we went again. This time Graham went with all the kids to join in kids activities and Mom and I were alone in the service.
And we went again the next Sunday and Graham stayed and Ruth didn’t want to go to the nursery and we were all together. I had lost football Sundays and somehow at this point as we all sat together it was okay. I had no idea why, but it was okay.
Hockey season started and we didn’t make it to church every Sunday, but we still went when we could. I don’t remember the sequence of events that followed, but the events were formative and kept us coming back.
- Graham started randomly attending service or going with the kids to do the kids activities. When he stayed he would hang out with Pastor Karen at times in the front row. When he went with the kids we picked him up, we kept hearing how well spoken and thoughtful he was.
- Ruth randomly attended service and went to the nursery. She randomly would go with Graham to be by Pastor Karen when she attended service and at other times played with the silly putty, coloring books and other random items in the activity bag.
- Then there was the first moment that placed me on my personal path to the well. At the end of a service, Pastor Karen would usually go to the back of Church and say her final words from the back. On this day she stayed up front and asked Graham and Ruth to join her. She simply said, “If you have any question about why we are here, we are here for these kids.”
That was the first moment I became engaged in a service. I also realized at that moment just how much had changed in our lives.
To be continued…