This weekend I had the opportunity to walk down memory lane in some very tangible ways. On Friday night, most of my family gathered together at Church of the Saviour United Methodist to celebrate my dad’s retirement from ministry. It felt familiar and distant all at the same time. We came to this church in the late 1980s when my dad was appointed there the first time. We lived in the parsonage at the end of the driveway. I knew the grounds and the church building inside and out. My dad was later appointed here again, which doesn’t happen very often.
After Brad and I arrived, we greeted my nieces as they filed out of their van. I pointed toward the house and told them, “That’s where your daddy, uncle Aaron and I used to live.” “See those trees? Your daddy and I used to play in those woods all day long.” “We would ride our bikes all round this parking lot!” They seemed impressed…or they’ve already learned how to manage aunt Anne’s storytelling 😉
We went inside the church and more memories came flooding back. Dad’s office over there. The copy room where I spent hours making notecards for the bird test in sophomore year zoology class. The room where I took confirmation with my dad as the teacher. The sanctuary, in the round, where I would sit in the same pew week after week.
We couldn’t stop the memories from coming — Andrew and I. Soon Natasha, Tiffany, and Bethany joined in on the storytelling. We stood around laughing until tears were in our eyes. We were supposed to be quiet, listening to the special music, but we couldn’t — some things never change!
Not only were there faces from Church of the Saviour present, but friends and family from the beginning of my dad’s ministry were there too. People who I haven’t seen since I was child. People who I once thought were old and who are now actually old. I showed my nieces how I used to dance around the altar as part of worship. I showed them the hallways and the space behind the pulpit where the banners are hung. I sat on the floor and told them how grandpa used to tell all the kids of the church a story during worship every week, sometimes he’d even use our toys as object lessons.
We returned again on Sunday for a different occasion. After 57 years, the church is closing. To celebrate they invited back former pastors, members, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. The sanctuary was filled to overflowing. The service was longer than usual because communion took so long — such a gift for the church as they say goodbye. Then afterward the fellowship hall downstairs was packed with everyone joining together for one last meal.
The first time I sang I solo was in that room. Morning has broken like the first morning. We were in the fellowship hall because the week before one of the lights fell during my dad’s sermon, so we met in the fellowship hall for a few weeks until that was sorted out! I was in a few plays on that stage directed by Linda. I lined danced as part of a church event. I shared in so many community meals, especially on Friday nights when we’d have a pitch-in before going to see a play at Edyvean Theater (formerly at Christian Theological Seminary). I bought my clarinet at a rummage sale in that room — the same clarinet that I played for seven years that once belonged to Bob. I met with the youth group down the hall and to the right. I hosted my birthday party outside those doors one hot, summer evening. I walked around the property more times than I can recall. I spent the majority of my childhood in that building surrounded by people who cared and loved for me.
As we left on Sunday I realized I’d probably never be on that property again. I don’t know who will take over the building or what groups will use it in the future. I hope whoever occupies it next feels the love and community and peace that this building has held for the last 57 years. I hope they laugh and cry with friends. I hope they feel safe and loved with family. I hope they feel empowered and strong with mentors.
This building, this community is one of the many places from where I came. I’m grateful for the ways it shaped and molded me. I know I am who I am today because of Church of the Saviour and I am grateful.