When we were asked to write about our faith journey, I thought to myself, “that makes sense and what a good idea.” I have enjoyed the previous articles and feel these sharings can strengthen our relationships with one another. My second thought was “what am I going to write?” After about a week I decided that we as liberal Christians living in the Midwest do not evangelize about our faith. Furthermore, I’m a relatively private person and I work in an environment that stresses privacy. I’m a Dietitian at the VA Hospital in Wichita. There are signs everywhere reminding us to respect the privacy of others. Additionally, there are three things you just don’t talk about at work, your salary, politics, and religion.
So besides work and my family, church occupies my time. I really don’t engage in other outside activities where I can discuss my faith. I’ve been raised UCC. At the age of 2 (in 1958) my family, along with two sets of aunts and uncles, joined a rapidly growing church in southeast Wichita, Pilgrim. I was baptized along with my Dad on the same day. We lived a mile from the church, a mile from the high school I went to, and a mile from the grocery store and service station we traded at. About a fourth of the kids I went through school with attended Pilgrim. While many families left, some parents remained and their children left. And now those parents have passed. I remember junior and senior high Pilgrim Fellowship, going to church camp, vacation bible school, and Sunday school. Reflecting back, I think of the pastors we have had. I believe they were more progressive for their time than we, as a congregation, were ready to move forward during the time they served. Yet, they were planting the seeds for how we can live our faith into today’s world to really and truly advocate justice for all, to extend hospitality as a sign of God’s inclusive love, and to live peacefully.
At the age of 17, I got to experience one of those once in a lifetime experiences. I spent several days being interviewed for a national magazine sharing my thoughts and views about growing up in America. The introduction said, “These are her own words, thoughts, hopes, aspirations and ideals….”. They titled the article “I Want the Strength To Learn To Be ME!” I recently reread the article for the first time in many years. This assignment got me to thinking about other times I’ve been asked to reflect on what I think and believe. The last three paragraphs of the article were my reflections on prayer and my faith at the time. About prayer I said that “when I was a child, I used to say a prayer before I went to bed. Now that I am grown-up, I pray whenever I need the courage or strength, and when I get to thinking about bad things or things that frighten me”. I said “wanted to hope that there is a God – it might be I need it as a crutch”.
Fast forward to the time past college (when I only attended church when I came home from school), to marriage. I was married at Pilgrim. My husband joined Pilgrim from his Methodist and Baptist family backgrounds. We baptized and raised our daughter at Pilgrim. Once we thought about leaving, but didn’t know where we go. Pilgrim was our home, the people our family. We were not dictated as to what to believe. We could and still can agree to disagree. Our minds and our hearts were opened to new depths and widths.
I believe my faith and being a part of the UCC is a never-ending journey. Sometimes we have those “aha” moments like when I understood the scripture about first shall be last and last first or, when as a teenager, attending a performance of the play The Trial of Job, knowing that it was profound, leaving me perplexed, and filled with questions. Sometimes we just quietly exist. I do not consider my self a deeply religious person. I have had my share of joys and trials. I know I have “bargained” with God and have not kept up my end of the deal.
I still pray whenever I need courage or strength, and when I get to thinking about bad things or things that frighten me. But I now pray for others. I write notes to them in my mind. My daughter once said that Sunday was the first day of the week, not the last day in the weekend. I want to try to spend the first day of the week as it was intended; a day of rest, putting those thoughts down on paper, taking a nap in the sun. I have given up wishing I knew what tomorrow would bring and putting more faith in accepting what tomorrow brings.
Debbie is the Secretary for the KO Conference and a member of Pilgrim UCC in Wichita, Kansas.