What does the church mean to me?

The pastor at our main church campus asked members for letters about what the church meant to them. The following is what I sent back. I've been asked to share in person on Sunday and I'm not sure I'll get through it without a tear or two, but we shall see. Again, another post that has nothing to do with PR or Paddling. I'll get back to those at some point.

"First, Brian, even though I attend the services at the West Homewood campus I enjoy getting and reading your emails. Says something about my vintage I guess. I wanted to write you about the church and what it means to me from a couple of different vantage points. One, as a kid that grew up at Trinity, long ago. And then second, as an adult, going through a divorce, who needed to find their own church home and begin healing. Both perspectives are important to me because I believe the church means different things at different times in our life.

First as a teenager.

My parents couldn’t wait until I could drive so they would not have to drive me to Trinity twice on Sunday. First, for Sunday school and Church and then later in the day for snack supper, choir practice (Emanuel Singers) and then Youth Group and church again! These teen years were important to me, I made friends from other schools, the choir went on tours and the youth pastor shaped me in ways it would take me years to realize (and not in a good way). I remember those days as fun and carefree and still maintain a few friends from that time period. But, as I graduated the relationship with my youth minister took a dark turn. We ended up going on a scuba diving trip. I was a freshman in college and came back home to go, my parents let me go because Peter (the youth minister) was going. I respected Peter, but would soon learn his philosophy and faith was skewed. When we drove to the Atlanta airport he asked if he could smoke. I thought he meant cigarettes, and I said sure just roll down the window. He didn’t mean cigarettes, he started smoking pot. And, he informed that he was going on vacation and what I saw him do that week should not be repeated and didn’t matter because he was on vacation. I was like whoa okay. On the trip he continued to do other drugs and tried to get me to do them. I didn’t but it was weird none the less. When we returned from the trip I never said anything to my parents. I just went back to school. Fast forward about 6 months later and Peter ended up being arrested in a hotel room with another woman and some drugs. I figured God sent him a pretty powerful message. My parents called with the news and asked me if I had any idea – I told them my story. Mom was shocked. Peter had officiated at my sister’s wedding a year or so before. But, we all moved on.

Fast forward a few years from that and one of my high school friends that also a part of the youth group and sang in the choir was involved in a news story. It seemed that Robert Corley, who was a counselor to our youth group and to the scouts, had been sexually abusing young boys for years. My friend, many years later, after some other youth had come forward went to testify in court. I was shocked. How could all of this been going on around me and I never knew it.  I returned home from college and got a job in the news business and I did not return to the church, in fact I left it for a long while. Until one day when I made a promise to my mother. I told her if I got a job out of TV news I would return to the church. Not long after that statement I did get a PR job and made good on the promise, but I didn’t return to Trinity.

Second as an adult.

Fast forward to my return as an adult. My marriage failing. I needed and wanted a church home. I had wanted to attend church for years but my husband did not want to go. He was a Christian, but did not believe in churches or ministers. I needed that. I needed people to help guide me through my study, challenge my beliefs. I did not want to return to the church where my parents were. I didn’t want to attend Trinity because I’m Robert and Brittany’s Aunt. I needed a place where I could be me. Start new. Brittany had mentioned West Homewood, so I decided I would visit. When I drove up to the church there was large banner stand out front that said “Divorce Care”. I was like okay, maybe this church has something for me. I enjoyed the casual nature of the church. It was hard for me to get through my first service and fight back tears. Tears of guilt over a failing marriage, but also tears of happiness because I was finally back in God’s house. It felt good.

I inquired about the Divorce Care group and it was meeting at Trinity. It had already been meeting for about 4 weeks, but I jumped in and joined on Wednesday nights. The group was welcoming and I was amazed at the honesty and pain everyone shared. I was not able to share that first night, but I did on subsequent nights. Little did I know then, that I would sign up for a second round of Divorce Care and that the people in that room would become a part of my support system that I could not do without today.

I called Jack and met with him about joining the church. I shared my story and why I was there. He listened! That is all, not offering any judgement but seemingly understood my pain. I attended another service and did a food packing mission afterwards. I didn’t know anyone but worked along-side another couple. They were very welcoming. It was later I told Jack I was ready to join, and the rest is unfolding as we speak.

I love that our church is open to anyone – even non-believers.

I love that we want people to have a place where they can feel a part first, before committing.

I love that Trinity West Homewood is service oriented. [Personally, I believe the church should serve the community around it before trying to solve the rest of the worlds ills.]

I love that it is my home, and not just on Sundays but during the week for study.

Thank you for leading an amazing team, bringing diversity into our church and helping make the church a loving place for all those that want to learn more about God and Christianity."

 


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