MY FAITH JOURNEY:
Shared at FUMC’s Evening Prayer Service on August 21, 2011
My name is Diane Waldburger and I am Methodist; I always have been.
My contemplative reflection today looks to the past, particularly the past in this church. That is why I chose two of my favorite remembered hymns from the hymnal of my childhood to sing tonight: “Faith of Our Fathers Living Still,” and “Truehearted, Wholehearted, Faithful and Loyal.” I think I actually learned to read from the pages of this old hymnal.
My faith journey begins with my parents, William and Doris. They met here after church on a Sunday around the date of January 9, 1949, my mom’s birthday. As my mom told me her story, it went like this. There was a small celebration downstairs in Fellowship Hall for her 22nd birthday. There was a cute guy there who introduced himself. Shortly after they began dating, they married on May 7, 1949. AND I was born the following April. I think of it as a romantic story.
My mother’s family had moved to Salt Lake during WWII. They had relocated in a hurry after their dad, my grandfather, was diagnosed with cancer and they needed to be near a sizable hospital. It was a hard time for the family with 5 kids. The two oldest girls stayed in Blackfoot, Idaho to finish high school and stayed with relatives. My mom, who was in Jr. High, was the oldest sibling to come with the family. After two years of treatment my grandfather died. Somehow my grandparents found First Methodist SLC after leaving Jason Lee Memorial Methodist in Blackfoot, ID. My mom told me she joined this church in 1945.
My father, who was born in Olympia, Washington, served in the US Army/Air Force in World War II, and was stationed at Hickham Field on December 7, 1941 when Pearl Harbor was attacked. After the war, he was stationed at Fort Kearns, Utah. When he was released from service he moved to Salt Lake. He said he dated a Mormon girl but couldn’t marry her, so he stayed with his Methodist roots and found First Methodist.
When my parents met, my mom’s family was established here at First Methodist, while it was my father’s first Sunday here. They both remained here attending every Sunday service for the rest of their lives. My father died in 1990 and my mother in 1997.
We were a funny little family growing up here. My father never learned to drive so we didn’t have a car. We took the bus to church when it ran on Sundays, and in bad weather we took a taxi cab. As we got older we walked. I have 2 younger siblings, and if you were to ask them what was significant about us they would tell you we were Methodist, and we grew up without a car or TV. My mom insisted that I go to college, so she somehow got the application form to apply for government college grants that were available. I became the first person in my family on both sides to graduate from a university. When the money came, she insisted that she and I go to a used car lot and buy a car with some of that money. After that she went to driving school and got a driver’s license. It was never easy for us kids. We were belittled and ignored mostly by our school mates in all our years in public school. Not a fun picture.
While I consider myself fortunate to have this background, my faith was severely tested when my mom died unexpectedly on September 25, 1997. It was cardiac arrest that stopped her heart while she was pushing a shopping cart at the grocery store. The days following the event of her death remain with me still. I am grateful yet to all at First Methodist who helped me and my family through the ordeal. I know that it is the spirit of my parents that brings me here each Sunday, and I feel I am honoring their memory.
One story from my mom is about This Is the Place Monument here is SLC. As a child, she took me on the bus to visit it. She told me that she was there at its opening ceremony in 1947, and particularly wanted to impress on me that at that time there was an ecumenical movement in this valley, and that somehow a Methodist was placed on the monument. Jedediah Smith became the childhood hero of my faith. In my child’s mind, it was his heroism in the hymn, Faith of Our Fathers. Now we have a new example of ecumenism in the Walk of Faith at This Is the Place monument which honors the “others”, the other faiths who were influential in the settling of this valley. AND best of all for us Methodists, Jedediah Smith’s image and short bio is on our Methodist plaque! I hope you all go to see it.