Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Homecoming

This past Sunday my family attended a homecoming service at the church that I attended from birth through 7th grade. Actually, I should call it the meeting house, because I grew up Quaker, and that is where Quakers meet. The stats board in the back (we called it the narthex, I have no idea if this is the correct spelling) said there were 105 people in attendance. Counting my nuclear and extended family, we made up 19 of them. Right before my family left the church, it was not unusual for the attendance to be in the mid 200's. So needless to say, the church body is much different than when we attended.

I had not stepped foot in this church since my grandmother's funeral 14 years ago. As I carried my crockpot of beans to the fellowship hall, I could already feel the tears welling up in my eyes. "Get a grip," I told myself as I gritted my teeth and delivered my food. I had also brought chicken casserole, muffins, and brownies in fear of there not being enough food. I had forgotten how wonderful South Marion Friends carryins were. There was no need to worry about the quanity or quality of food. This spread was in stark contrast of the last carry in at College where the unfortunate ones at the end of the line came out with macaroni salad and a cookie. Of course I am just as much as to blame as the rest of the congregation; I only brought potato salad. But for this South Marion Friends homecoming, I was pulling out all the stops.

After delivering the food I mingled in the narthex with my family. There sat the two red chairs in front of the nursery, one where my grandmother would sit every Sunday morning waiting for me to arrive. Mom and Dad always had choir practice before church, so I would sit in the other red chair by my grandma and she would pull out a piece of Wrigley's spearmint gum for me from her Bible.

We headed in the sanctuary to sit down - the same place my family always sat on Sunday nights. Sunday mornings my parents stayed in the choir loft, so I would sit on the other side with my grandma. But Sunday nights we sat on the opposite side, easy access to the back door which led to the prayer room, aka spanking room when my brother and I would act up. The same red hymnals sat in the pew. #1 was still For the Beauty of the Earth, #2 was still How Great Thou Art, #100 was still Satisfied, and #21 was still Love Divine All Love Excelling. I passed the time through many a sermon leafing through those hymnals. The big "Come Worship The Lord In The Beauty Of Holiness" letters still hung proudly up front on the wall. I used to play word games with those letters. Darlene still sat at the organ and played. After the sermon (which I only can remember 1 of the 2 really funny illustrations - one was about a farmer and a lawyer and I can't remember the other one so if Bekah, you are reading, do you remember?) we had the time we call Communion After The Manner Of Friends where everyone meditates on what was just said. One time my mom had planned a surprise party for my dad after the sermon so she was deep in thought about the party when my dad leaned over and jokingly told her the pastor had asked her to dismiss the service...and she did! How embarrasing.

After the service we ate, and then came the time for the big tour. I had to show my kids and husband all around the church. The library looked like it was in a time warp - just as I had remembered it as a kid, hanging out for hours while my mom served on committees. The nursery still had a couple of toys that I remember playing with, and the old piano I used to practice on was still in the children's church room. In the library I found some old church directories and had a great time leafing through remembering the members of the church. Amazingly Jason's great grandfather's picture was in one of them - he didn't even know he had attended the church!

As we pulled out of the parking lot after leaving, a lot of thoughts were running through my head. There is definitely a different feel being a part of a church body of 200 compared to a church body of 1200 or however many now attend College Church. Will my children feel the same type of bond to their church and the church body that I did to mine? What kind of memories will they have 20 years from now of their childhood church? For a moment I wanted to gather up all of the former members of the church when I was young and restart a new South Marion Friends Meeting. But that's not realistic. Maybe my family could just go back to the church, meet the new members (all of about 30 maybe) and start new traditions. But then I got to thinking, it isn't the actual church building that I hold so dear in my heart. The church building was just the structure that held the people that meant so much to me. Without those people, the walls of the church really have no sentimental value to me - it's the memories that were created within those walls. And my children are creating those same kinds of memories within the walls of College Church with a different body of believers.

In the crazy pace of life, we find time for dance, for gymnastics, for tennis, and many other extra-curricular activities that the kids love. But it's the memories that are created in the church that I believe have the potential to be remembered most fondly, and so in this day when the trend seems to be going away from the traditional church setting and more focus is on your personal relationship with whatever god you serve, I want my kids to still grow up in a church that serves as a safe haven, an accountability tool, a support system, and most importantly a place to worship God.

3 Comments:

Blogger Keetha said...

My dad's family has connections there too - - - - Grandma Heavilin attended there, and her funeral was held there.

October 10, 2007 4:51 AM  
Blogger Bekah said...

I have been searching my brain (what an activity!) for that other funny story and I can't remember it. I bet my Dad does, though, so next time I talk to him (which will be sometime today because it's the big 7-5 for him today!) I'll ask him.

I CRACKED UP at the story about your mom dismissing church. I didn't know that story. THAT is hilarious!!!

I also found it amusing that I, too, remembered #21 was Love Divine...and that's not even a "common" song! How'd we both know that? I love the words at the front of the church as well - I used to sit there and be disturbed by the comma - without a period. OCD, I know.

I wish I would have taken a tour for fun after it was over. And pictures. I chickened out on taking pictures. Maybe someday.

I'm with you though - so wanted to go back and see it revived to the "days of yore" when it was a thriving church.

October 11, 2007 8:33 AM  
Anonymous Jen A. said...

Wow! What a personal testimony you have about church. I seriously think you could be a writer for a column in a newspaper or magazine. You are a good writer- must get that from your mom. :)

October 17, 2007 10:53 AM  

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