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This is My Church Because…

I was asked to give this presentation on our church’s 150th anniversary.

I have to tell you that, as a sometime moderator, every supply pastor who I have worked with over the last years has told me what a special, Christ-like place this church is. They all want to come back here.

This is my church because my first memory of a church, any church is these church windows.
When I was a little boy sometimes when my parents were busy with the farm or just plain tired of an inquisitive little boy after having two perfect daughters, I got to stay overnight with my Grandmother (if you are old enough to remember her, think chocolate brownies and roses).
I think her name is on a quilt downstairs.
She was a retired teacher and so she always had paper for me to write and draw on as the service went on. I remember the light from those windows streamed down in various colors as the sun moved across the sky.
On a sunny day you can hold your arms and hands up a watch them change from green to red to…
And to this day usually when I say to my wife, “Honey, I’m going down to the church for a minute,” my mental image isn’t of a building.
It’s an image of the light through those windows and an image of one of the first people I loved here, my grandmother.
Back then I only knew that I loved a lot of people here and a lot of people loved me.

This is my church because when I was in my formative years, as they say, we had a bunch of boys here, many of whom were named Bowen (their father was the minister).
At around age 10 or 11 we were allowed to sit together in a group instead with our families.
And we still didn’t get in all that much trouble.
But I remember we had an older woman in the church who sang very loudly, very joyfully, and about ¼ to ½ note off-key.
One of these boys decided we should sit behind her and he sang just as loud on-key (we might have helped him a little bit.)
But it was to no avail.
We could never bring her back on-key.
And they threatened to reign us back into the family pews if we didn’t stop.
But I think we all knew that we loved a lot of people here and a lot of people, because they truly followed the teachings of Jesus, loved us.
Even if they couldn’t always appreciate a good joke.

This is my church because when we were a young family there were many other families here with young children.
All those memories.
It seemed like Sunday morning was the only time we weren’t working, a special time.
But what a stressful time too, getting chores done and getting three little blond kids ready and out the door to service.
I remember one of these little blonds at around 3 years old got loose during the Children’s Message, and wandered up to the front of the church.
Several in the congregation chuckled.
The child realized there was an audience
The child’s mother tensed beside me; she didn’t think it was very funny.
The child ended up under the alter, on her back smiling smugly.
One leg crossed over the other kicking the wall loudly, thumb in mouth, arms behind her head, and of course her blankie held to her ear.
I now know that we loved a lot of people here and a lot of people, because they truly followed the teachings of Jesus, loved us, and they weren’t nearly as mortified as we were at the situation.

Those are three stories of hundreds that made this my church for the first part of my life.
There are hundreds more about why it’s been my church for the second part.
But I won’t tell you anymore stories today.

Instead I’ll turn it around.

Today, because this is my church, we show the love of Jesus to every child that comes through the door.
And for every Tom giving them a hard time, which is a rite of passage to God’s love around here, we have a Mary, Claudia, and other teachers and care givers.
They all make sure the children know that they are loved because we follow the example of Jesus.

Today, because this is my church, when children wander around during service, I celebrate another generation here who, I hope, know that we love them.
What a great experience to grow up in a place where you can sometimes wander and still know that you are loved and encouraged.

Today, because this is my church, in a few minutes I will again sing loudly and joyfully.
And, I might be off-key again.
But I will never know, because in this church there are so many unique voices blending and interpreting our shared calling from Christ, I will probably fit right in.
So I don’t care anyway if I am a little off key, and neither should you, because today, this is our church.

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