No I don’t go to church much, but at one point in my life, church was one of my highest priorities. My Church was a huge part of my life.
I grew up going to church every Sunday, I made my confirmation, attended Sunday school, sang in the children’s choir, ran though the halls, and when I was an adult I worked as the church secretary.
I was married in the church, and baptized all of our children there, we raised them in church, where they participated in church events, youth fellowships, choir and so much more.
The clergy through my years, comforted our family in times of sadness, visited family in the hospital, and celebrated with us during the happy times.
My choir director, when I was a little girl, gave me a love of music, and encouraged me to sing, even though I could not carry a tune.
A very talented musician and composer, who was our music director, encouraged me to play hand bells, even though I could not read music. The church gave me music, and I enjoyed it so much.
When I was in high school, my High School Sunday School teacher was an incredible man. He was the most kind, understanding and patient man of faith I had ever met. He was a big part of my faith journey. He taught me to never give up on anyone, never judge anyone, and always have faith that things will get better. He was a mentor to many at church, me included.
My childhood minister confirmed me and he taught me to be quiet and listen. He taught me that you hear God in the stillness, so when you pray make sure you take time to quietly listen.
The minister who led our church when I was a teen, helped me through some very difficult teenage years with the patience of a saint.
After I finished high school, I wanted to teach Sunday school, two very lovely women of the church took me under their wing and I started teaching our 4 year olds under their guidance. I continued teaching for 25 years all because they were willing to take a chance on me, and had faith in me.
When I was having my first child, three weeks into the pregnancy I found out I was exposed to a virus. I was told I could have an approved medical abortion because the baby might be born blind and deaf. I was beside myself, so I went to my church, went into the stillness of our sanctuary and asked God what to do.
I remembered my childhood ministers words. “Be still and listen”
As I was sitting in the sanctuary, a calmness came over me, a peace; as if God was telling me everything was going to be fine. I carried that baby 9 months and gave birth to a healthy baby boy.
As an adult another minister arrived. He encouraged me to get more involved in the church as a leader. He also encouraged me to start a new fellowship group.
I formed the EYF (Elementary Youth Fellowship) and continued to work with the same group of about 30 kids from EYF to JYF (Junior Youth Fellowship) and on to MYF. It was the best of times, we became a community of love and caring.
We went to so many Christian retreats together, along with fun adventures such as camping and canoe trips on the Delaware River.
Even now, almost all of those kids keep in touch with me either through face book or in person.
I was so blessed to have that same group of kids and watch them grow from grammar school students to high school students planning for college.
I was with them through their happy times, confusing times, and some very sad times, including a battle with cancer by one, and loss of a parent by two. They taught me more than I ever taught them.
I had so many people in the church who believed in me. One woman encouraged me to be the Church Secretary. A job I took, but it never seemed like a job. It was more of a labor of love. I thank her for that encouragement and opportunity.
I loved the church and the people in it. It was always my safe place. A place to find friendship, peace and answers. The church meant so much to me, and to my family.
When I look back on my years in the church, I thank God for allowing me the great privilege of meeting so many people of strength courage and great faith, who influenced my life, and whose words come back to me in time of need.
I thank God for those who have continued to help me, even after leaving the church.
During the year my husband was battling cancer, so many reached out with support.
A wonderful woman of God who watched me grow up in the church sent me 20 years of cards, trying to get me back to church after I left. Always encouraging me with her wit and wisdom. I wanted to go back, but I had lost faith in the institution of the church. I tried many times, but the scars were too deep and painful.
Now, in that church where I spent such a big part of my life, there is a new minister and even though I don’t attend church often, his kindness means the world to me. During the prolonged illnesses of my parents and through the heartache of their death he was there.
I never believed I could feel comfortable with a minister again, until I met him.
I have so many memories of church, and of the people who encouraged me along my faith journey from my childhood to my adult years. God Bless all of them, in heaven and on earth.
I am thankful for the 48 happy years of being a part of a church family.
Everything I learned there helped me in my darkest hours and times of trial, and when I left, I felt lost.
Little did I know, the leaving, would lead to a new beginning of volunteer work within the town of Nutley, even now at the age of 70.
Yes, I was blessed by being a part an extraordinary church family for a large part of my life, but sometimes life throws you a curve. The church I loved was also the church that hurt me more than I had ever dreamed possible. Yet, looking back, it changed me for the better. I do believe all things happen for a reason.
I lost the church, but I never lost what I learned while growing up there, nor what I learned as a youth adviser, Sunday school teacher and church secretary.
The knowledge I gained from the good years as a member of a church family, was transferred to new and different volunteer work which fills my heart and stirs my soul.
The church will always be a part of me, then, now and forever.
I will forever hold it in my heart and Thank God for the good years there, surrounded by people of strong, faith and love, whose words and actions I carry with me to this day. I don’t judge the people who hurt me any longer, I leave that up to God.
Maybe one day I can forgive them, as God has forgiven me so many times, but it’s difficult, and I am only human with feelings, flaws and imperfections, but maybe one day, maybe one day. There is always hope! 🙏