I attended a church in California – and that was the tag line they used. It was a great church – although I loved it a lot, and I return every trip I get, it never quite felt like “home” to me. Of course – I only lived in that city for two years, and attended that church for maybe a year and a half. It was the perfect place for me to be at that time.
When I moved out here – I knew what church I wanted to attend. Another big “mega-church” with lots of urban ministries. But somehow, that church never seemed to connect with me. It’s true, I was traveling a lot and only showed up once a month, but you’d expect after the sixth months someone would recognize a return visitor. Nope.
Even more frustrating for me was being out on the road and attending all these great churches … big and small – where they were so welcoming. In fact, one of the churches in Memphis still recognizes me TO THIS DAY when I show up there to worship.
In my neighborhood, less than a mile away from my house, is a church of the same denomination I chose to attend as a young child. My Aunt, who’d been out to NC to visit, asked me why I wasn’t attending this church. I’d responded, “Well Aunt Pen-Pen, it’s just too small for me. I don’t think they have anything to offer.” After a year of living here, I stopped one October at this church to purchase a pumpkin for Halloween. The cost of the pumpkin was minimal and I told them to keep the left-over change. You would have thought I’d given the youth a million dollar endowment. The following Sunday I decided to check the church out.
As I walked through the door the Associate Pastor said, “Morning Red! How are you today?” At the end of the service, this woman walked up and asked if I belonged to a Sunday School class. I said no and she said, “Follow me. This class is the best. They use to be the Young Adult Class, and then they made them change their name a few years ago. Now they’re called the Genesis Class. We’ve got all age ranges. You’ll like it.”
And with that, I found, “A place called home.” In the obituary, and at the funeral on Friday, the Genesis Class was mentioned as being “part of the family”. At one point we were asked to stand as a group. Although there was a problem with my vision (something kept leaking out of my eyes and made everything blurry) … it was pretty amazing to see this group of 40+ people who've been part of the class for 30 days to 25 years … stand up and identity themselves from all corners of the sanctuary.
Today in class – we gathered once again as a family. A family in grief, leaning on each other for support. Our new Associate Minister came to talk to us. To help us put a voice to our emotions. We agreed that we cannot hide from the truth. We cannot act like this hasn’t happened. That in the days, months, and years ahead it is important to recall the good times, the funny times. It's imperative we never shy away from talking about Don and our memories. We talked about supporting Kaitlin and her fiancée and Don’s twin brother, along with Linda. That the care-givers need just as much support as those going through the <insert disease/trial/tribulation>. We talked about how Mental Illness, Situational Depression, and Suicide are still avoided in church and how we can do something positive about it … as a class and as a congregation.
I think the best news of the day was when she read this from the “Social Principles”. “A Christian perspective on suicide begins with an affirmation of faith that nothing, including suicide, separates us from the love of God (Romans 8:38-39). Therefore, we deplore the condemnation of people who complete suicide, and we consider unjust the stigma that so often falls on surviving family and friends.”
Indeed, HUMC is a place I call home, the Genesis Class is my family.