I have lots of faults. I will not mention them all right now, but trust me. They are plentiful. One of them is believing that if something needs to be done that I can do, I should do it, regardless of what else is on my list at the time.
That situation arose earlier this year when our church was preparing for its Sesquicentennial (say that once fast). The planning committee decided we should create a booklet detailing the history of the church, and that someone should write it. You will be surprised to know that one church member has a penchant for writing. And perhaps you won’t be surprised to know that when I was asked to write it, I said I would.
I had no idea what I would write, or how the booklet would be constructed, but I had faith I would find out.
Faith can be a nebulous concept. To me, though, faith means trusting whatever befalls a person will work out in the end. And, as someone said in “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” if it hasn’t worked out, it isn’t the end. So I knew the booklet would work out, at least in some fashion.
What followed has been a testament to my reliance on faith in something larger than I, something larger than the life I now know.
I began my project by looking at the four church histories that had been written before, beginning in 1865, a few years before my great-grandfather was born. I knew my great-grandfather, and in a way that ties in beautifully with writing a church history.
When I was not quite three, he and I walked to the little white Methodist Church in Williford, Arkansas, where we “played” church. I pounded on the piano, pretending to play hymns, and when I collected the offering and he placed a dime in the plate, I declared church to be over; Papa and I then took another short walk downtown, where I devoured some ice cream that cost a dime.
As I read the histories, I found people who built a church in a wilderness, who were called to bring God’s word to those who would listen. I also found dissonance and discord, fires and other upheavals, anger and conflict, but above all, I found a sense of community and of the love of God, both of which surrounded those people, many of whom are now but photographs and memories. I found the history of a church through the eyes of those who had loved her.
So my writing in the booklet was limited. I considered myself almost a scribe rather than a writer, detailing the past through the words of those who had come before. I found photos of previous pastors, and pictures of gifts to the church, gifts of love and dedication; I found hope in plans for the future, and I discovered a church family who, throughout conflict in the larger Presbyterian church as well as in their own local church, found themselves a part of something larger – that thing I call faith.
I knew one of the historians, but not very well. I came to Sedalia about the time she became physically unable to continue her life’s mission in the church, which affected her faith not at all. She and I touched hearts when another precious church member was dying. I had arranged for the two of them to meet in the hospital, hours, it turned out, before the other died. The historian wrote me, telling me how much that last meeting had meant to her. “Oh,” she wrote, “how I shall miss her! And how eager I am to see her again!”
So with a glad heart, a heart that had no idea what the words, “Oh, sure. I can put that together,” meant, I say this is a weekend of celebration at Broadway Presbyterian. Come to see what joy looks like! And in the middle of all this, of course, the choir has been working hard on really special music. Come to hear what joy sounds like! I promise you won’t be disappointed.
Deborah Mitchell is a a local attorney and a Municipal Court Judge.