October is pastor appreciation month and I was thinking about the many pastors I’ve enjoyed sitting under over the years. We have been blessed.
While attending Carleton University in Ottawa, I got involved in a church near the university. I had attended it briefly my first year but wasn’t ready yet to carve out my own faith. Over the next three years that church called out to me every time I passed it. Finally in my last year of school, I went back. It was a decision I will never regret. I loved this church and still do, even though it’s been years since we’ve been back. It will always hold a special place in my heart.
1. At the time, almost three quarters of the people attending were university students. The rest of the congregation was made up of older adults and seniors. There were a very few young families. I remember feeling welcome by many of these other members. Walking home with an elderly gentleman week after week, chatting away about this and that. Being invited to dinner and enjoying many potlucks as starving students. We were all part of the same family. I hope as I get older I am like those people who made the students feel welcomed. Who embraced God first even if it made them uncomfortable. Who transferred the baton of leadership so well.
2. I sat engaged in relevant teaching and being part of a service that was full of the Spirit. The church at the corner of Sunnyside and Grosvenor, had long ago decided to let go of their own agenda and fill the almost empty pews with kids from the university down the street. That decision made the difference in my life. I saw a faith that was vibrant. Kids who actually worshipped on Sunday and then walked their faith out through the week. I had never witnessed anything like it. It wasn’t about rules and regulations. It was about a personal relationship with Jesus. THAT made all the difference.
3. It began in me, the exploration of worshipping through the arts. Growing up with only the organ and hymns, I had never seen drums, guitars and singers up front leading some really great songs. People were excited to be there! I was instantly hooked. It was the first tentative step out of the standard box of worship. Since then, I have taught workshops on dance as worship, as well as danced and choreographed for services and productions in the church. I don’t think I would have gotten here, if I hadn’t seen the beginnings in that church.
4. The young staff opened up new ideas of leadership for me. They were engaged and approachable. I saw pastors and their wives, invested in others. I saw imperfections and flaws but along with that I saw an authenticity I hadn’t seen before. It was the beginning of a life-long lesson that following Jesus has nothing to do with perfectionism.
5. For maybe the first time at church, I felt I belonged. I was building on the strong biblical knowledge I had learned growing up and now in my early twenties, making it my own. One of the best things about leaving home and going to another city far away, was coming into my own relationship with Jesus. I could no longer rest on my parents’ faith or the reputation of my family. I had to decide for myself that Jesus was my own personal saviour and friend. They let me make that journey and accepted me for who I was.
6. I met some awesome lifelong friends, who although I don’t get to see very often because we are spread across province and country, are still blessings in my life. They changed me and made a difference in the direction I was headed. I will always be grateful that God put them in my path!
7. I met Mark there. I chose to get married there, making family and friends travel many hours.
Was it a perfect church? No. In my opinion, perfection is a mirage, hiding stuff we don’t want to deal with. Having spent almost twenty years in ministry, I can tell you, it wasn’t perfect. But God lives in that house of worship and in the people who attend there. God trumped all else. The proof? The church has so many young families there today. Some of us left and pursued ministry callings, including my husband. Others stayed and they had to build a bigger nursery! Why? They were obedient to a call and a vision many years before. All else fell away. I may have some rose tinting in my glasses but the results in my life and in others, speak for themselves.
Thank you Dale. You made me realize that you didn’t always have to be in a good mood to be an authentice follower of Jesus. LOL! I laugh but your honest life was more than an example to me. You went Home too early. I miss you still.
To Brent and Lynda, Jody and Alex, Darren and Joy: Thank you for following God and making a difference in my life. Thank you for investing in us as friends and mentors. May God continue to pour out His blessings on you and your families.