I remember standing up front in the old sanctuary with all the other little kids singing in the choir. I remember singing “swing low, sweet chariot, coming for to carry me home” but what stands out more is “great green gobs of greasy grimy gopher guts.”
I remember some kind of gathering in that same sanctuary — now fellowship hall — eating biscuits and gravy for the first time. I also remember talking to my imaginary friend (Seffal) in that kitchen near the refrigerator.
I remember vacation Bible school, sitting in the Sunday school room watching the teacher explain a Bible story with flannel characters on a flannel board. I remember climbing into the youth room — it’s like it was really hidden or something, like we had to crawl through a room? My memory is hazy. But I remember thinking they must be so cool, all those big teenagers that get to hang out in this room.
That was also the church where my dad turned forty and I remember the bulletin board was covered in black and said “Lordy, lordy, the pastor’s forty!” That hits a little close to home this year!
I don’t remember this personally, but I remember my mom telling me how she kept me in a bassinet in her office after I was born. I remember her saying that I was her best sleeper. I literally grew up in the United Methodist Church.
I remember when my parents moved to different churches. As far as I knew, all churches had two pastors who happened to be married, but apparently that’s not the case. My mom went one way, my dad the other.
I remember taking confirmation class with my dad. I remember having horrible cramps one Sunday morning and moaning to myself on the couch in the Sunday school room while everyone else was upstairs in the sanctuary. I remember dancing around the altar with women of all ages. I remember meals and plays and love surrounding my time in that church.
I remember my mom’s fortieth birthday party, which was held in the community room of the church she was pastoring at the time. Fortunately, no pictures can be found — I was going through a Debbie Gibson phase. I remember caring for one of the pastor’s children during worship and being told that I don’t need to leave the sanctuary if he gets noisy.
I remember leaving these churches. I remember how much I hated the itinerant system (not knowing that was the name). I remember not wanting to attend this new, big church and slowly falling in love with the people there. I remember leading retreats for youth younger than me. I remember being mentored. I remember talking to my youth minister when it felt like my family was falling apart around me. I remember Bible study with my friends in a dark room with the candle light shining on their faces.
I remember going to summer camp with other United Methodist kids. I remember some people spoke about God differently than I did. I remember that some people acted differently in worship than I was used to. I remember experiencing my heart becoming strangely warmed over a campfire one night and it was then I knew that everything had changed.
I remember sitting on the floor in the campus house my freshman year of college sharing communion led by the United Methodist chaplain. I remember visiting the Wesley House when I transferred to a different college my sophomore year.
I remember the youth minister of my church coming to my house in Muncie to ask if I’d like to come work with him after graduation. I remember thinking “this is what I’m meant to do.”
I remember leading youth through confirmation classes, trying to help them understand that they don’t have to understand it all, that I don’t understand it all. I remember seeing their faces when they solemnly took the vow to support the church — their church — with their prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness.
I could go on and on and on about all the things I remember about my church because I’ve been part of this denomination since I was born. My whole life is full of memories in the United Methodist church.
This is the church I remember. The church that cared for me and loved me. The church that welcomed me and supported me. The church that held its arms wide open each time I returned. The church that said all are welcome and all are loved. The church that said you are a beloved child of God. That is the church I remember. That is the church I will hold on to. That is the church I love.