MY FAITH JOURNEY:
Shared at FUMC’s Evening Prayer Service on October 2, 2011
My Faith Journey has been one of many peaks and valleys. Most of you know I am a PK – a Preacher’s Kid. I grew up in a loving, caring and devoted religious family in South Carolina.
My first remembrances of church were with my grandparents. You know how grandparents like to show off their grandchildren and get them involved in their lives. While my parents were present in church, it was the grandparents that I remember first. My grandparents were pillars of the church, involved in all phases of ministries in our small rural church and in the community as well.
When my father was called into the ministry we moved about 150 miles away from all our family, and mother and dad were in complete control of our church life. We were very poor and no longer had the extra help from our family. Times were hard, but my parents never complained. They taught us the Bible, the importance of treating all people with dignity and respect, and to love the Lord.
We had family dinners together, with each child reciting a new Bible verse each day before dinner, and family prayer. There were eventually 8 children, and the older ones had to help the younger ones with their verses. Many times, the food had to be reheated before we could finally eat dinner. Can you imagine that happening in today’s world?
We were taught Bible stories, music, plays, and many, many speeches. My parents volunteered us to participate in all church programs in our small town. Our family could do an entire program, and many times we did. My parents had beautiful voices and music was a big part of what we did. As I said earlier, we were very poor and did not have a lot of material things, but our parents laid a strong solid religious foundation. Reading the Bible to us each night and family prayer before bedtime was a must. We were taught never to go to bed angry with anyone, because one of us could die and could never ask that person for forgiveness.
I could share many more stories with you, but we would be here for a few hours, and that would not be a good thing. But please indulge me, and let me share one story with you, then I will fast forward to another chapter in my Journey.
Many people in small towns where we lived would say that the preacher’s kids were the worst kids in the neighborhood, but the preacher’s kids were friends with the good Christian families’ children. Many of these children didn’t participate in any of the programs of the church, and I could never understand that, so what was there about these good children? It was at that time when I began to see Christian people being hypocrites and I wondered where God was in their thoughts.
During my father’s entire ministry, he was responsible for three churches in different locations. Due to lack of transportation, many times the whole family could not attend church with him, but we had to go to church. On the first Sunday, we were at our Methodist Church. Other Sundays we would have Sunday School at our church closest to the parsonage, and morning services at one of the other churches. I guess on those Sundays we were the inter-denominational spouse and children; it didn’t matter – we had to go to church.
From my early teen years, I noticed how poorly some Christian people treated each other and it was hard for me to believe they were Christians. I know all of us have our own faults and are striving to be better people, but some of the things I observed and witnessed were very difficult for me. Many times, my father was a victim of mean spirited Christians and I wondered again where God was in all of this. However, he never complained, but continued to teach us to be kind and caring children. But I also saw many good Christian people reach out to my father and mother and treat our family with love, dignity and respect. This came from members of our churches and from kind white people in segregated towns in South Carolina.
Fast forward to high school. When I was almost out of the house, I had seen and heard enough, and I told my father, “When I am grown I’m never going to church again.” He calmly said to me, “Baby, I hope you will change your mind because you will always need God in your life.”
Fast forward … I have now moved to New York, a broken family and a single parent. Brokenness. About 98% of my first year in New York I didn’t attend church on a regular basis. My Sundays began looking like my Mondays-Saturdays. I began to have this deep feeling of loneliness, emptiness, sadness, and my life was miserable. Brokenness out of my relationship with God. After a while I realized my broken relationship with God.
I think God spoke to me saying, “You have forgotten me, your Heavenly Father. I am waiting here for you to come home.” I had been out of my relationship with God. Even though I was out of church, I still studied the Bible and continued my prayer life. The message was clear, and I began looking for a church home. I found and joined St. Mark’s United Methodist Church. I became involved in their ministries and for the first time in my life, I felt I was in church because I wanted to be, not because I was being made to go. My father’s prayers were finally answered.
During my years in New York I was an active member of St. Mark’s UMC in Manhattan, Jane’s UMC in Brooklyn, and First UMC of Jamaica Hills, Queens, New York, and the New York Conference. Prior to moving to Utah in 1982 I ordered a directory from the Chamber of Commerce to find United Methodist churches here. I joined Centenary UMC and was a member there for about a year. Then I visited First UMC and felt like I was home. Since joining our church family I have been involved in several of our ministries and have tried to be a faithful and obedient servant.
In 2008, after working for American Express for 35 years, I lost my job. Brokenness. Over the past two years it’s been a struggle for me. I have suffered with depression, loneliness, emptiness, and a feeling of unworthiness, and I could add a few other things, but it’s not necessary. Despite the loss of my job, I am so blessed! I don’t need anything but peace and all the elements of the fruit of the spirit. Many of you have carried me in your prayers, with phone calls, dinners, and even cruises, and never knew what I was going through.
I have one son. I am so blessed and thankful to have two beautiful grandchildren, other family members, good friends, and my FUMC family who add prayers, fun, love, joy and peace to my life, my son included. I am thankful for all of you.
During my peaks and valleys, I have found the scriptures and my prayer life to be my anchor. They lift me up when I’m down and carry me forward to lift my spirit. Some of my favorite scriptures that I often go to are Psalm 8, 139 and 51; the Gospel of John, especially chapter 10; Romans 8; Paul’s letters, especially his letter to the Ephesians, chapter 6, verses 10-20.
In closing I am sure you will remember when Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do men say that I am?” As I continue to strive to be the disciple Christ has called me to be, I ask you, “Who do you say that I am?” Amen!