“Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.” Colossians 3: 16, 17
Twenty-two years ago, our small family moved to the mountains of Kentucky.We had been advised against traveling to and living in Harlan County, KY by others. But we were young and God’s voice seemed so loud and clear to us, we accepted the call to Loyall Church of Christ. A small church in the mountains of Kentucky was a far cry from the Puget Sound where I was raised. And I will admit, it was a scary move. Hannah, our oldest, was just 18 months old and I was 6 months pregnant with our son, Taylor. But it was where God had led us and in the end greatly blessed us.
This weekend my daughters and I are traveling back to Loyall to attend their first Homecoming celebration. We left Loyall for our current location 15 years ago. It’s hard to believe that so much time has passed. Many things have changed. I’m no longer married to my first husband who shared that ministry with me. My kids are grown and many of those I dearly loved in Loyall have passed. But I’m excited to be going back where there are still many I love and who loved us back then. This was our first congregation as a new pastor’s family and I know I will always look at them fondly. I learned a lot there about being a “church,” the good and the bad.
I learned about loving each other. There were plenty of disagreements and arguments. These were good strong lifelong Christian Church folks. They know the Bible better than anyone. And they had strong opinions. Sunday School could be a dangerous place with opinions flying everywhere. Those classes were not for the faint of heart at times. But when it was time to head up to worship, there were hugs and smiles. And when a member was in need, they all jumped into action. Often the fiercest combatants were the first to defend each other. These folks had been “doing” church together for longer than I’d been born. They understood how to love each other.
They were a people of prayer. One of my fondest memories is meeting every Monday with a small group to pray for the needs of the congregation and community. The meeting was called “Bended Knee” and while we didn’t kneel, we did sit around a table and pray together for those who were ill or in need. It was a close knit group that took the task seriously but also enjoyed meeting each week. For a small community, there was a lot of illness and struggle. We shared those together in the basement of the kitchen each week heads bowed in prayer. Nothing special, just time together sharing our burdens. But looking back, it feels about as holy as any place I’ve ever been.
And I remember the singing. Not only Sundays during worship but also at 5th Sunday Sings and special events. The congregation knew the songs well and many sang parts. It was beautiful to hear the voices mixing together as the organ or piano played. The folks knew the songs well. At the time I think I lashed against the lack of change but now I miss hearing those old hymns. It taught a young person with big ideas that big ideas aren’t always better ideas. Worship done well is the best, no matter if it’s old hymns or modern praise songs.
I hear things have changed at Loyall Church of Christ since I was there last. It’s what happens when people move away and people pass on to heaven. But I don’t doubt that some things will always be the same. I hear Faye will bring her deviled eggs to the luncheon on Sunday and I’m pretty sure this homecoming will feel like we’re coming home.
What are your fondest memories of church? What makes a church the Body of Christ?