This weekend I went back to the church where I was raised. I had been asked to speak for a kick-off luncheon for the United Methodist Women. When I arrived, I was warmly embraced, especially by a group of older women. Among the other unfamiliar faces, this older group had smiles that were easily recognizable. I had known most of them all my life.
In preparation for the event, I had taken time to reflect on the very earliest memories I had of my childhood church. As I stretched my mind, I could recall the creaky hardwood floors and the wood-polish smell of the old white-frame church when I was a very young child. In my mind’s eye, I could envision the steps where I waited for my mother while she practiced the organ for the Sunday service. But one memory stood out above the others.
I remembered going with my father to check on the progress of the new sanctuary being built on land adjacent to the white-frame building. I was four years old, and I recall walking with him on the foundation with pipes coming out of the ground. Even though I don’t recall the conversation, I remember it as a holy moment that is still stuck on the walls of my mind so many decades later.
Looking back on my faith journey, I can see how God has been at work through the lives of faithful servants to help mold my life. Some of the older women I was about to speak to at the UMW event had been my Sunday school teachers. Alongisde my parents, they had been the ones who cooked for church dinners and stayed after to sweep the floors. They had led Bible school and directed the children’s choirs.
Last week, the image of standing on the church foundation with my Dad brought unexpected misty eyes when I stood with my husband in our own church to sing the opening hymn. The song was “Standing on the Promises”. Because of its repeating bass line, my kids had always called it a “Grandaddy song”. As we came to the chorus, I could almost hear my Dad singing, “Standing on the promises, standing on the promises…” with a bounce in his stance and joy in his voice. The memory of standing with my Dad on the foundation that day so long ago flooded my heart.
Back at the UMW event at my childhood church, I hugged the senior women, feeling their time-worn bodies. Though they showed physical signs of aging, their spirits were amazingly strong. I had come to encourage them in the winter of their lives. I had come to remind them that they still have purpose. Funny thing is, that’s exactly what they did for me. Sometimes you really can go home again.