This month my church celebrated its 150th anniversary. It seemed like a very long time until I realized I had been there for almost a third of the history.
During the festivities, Jennifer and I had the pleasure of hosting one of our former pastors and his wife for the weekend. He led the church from the time I was a fourth grader until my high school graduation, and he was someone who had a very big part in my formative years.
The celebration of our church’s anniversary was a great event with time set aside for sharing memories. It seemed like a lot of the memories were of me and the things I used to say and do during the children’s sermon. I suppose I deserve most of it for causing my parents that much grief, but it did feel like the “roast Glenn” hour.
It was at that moment one of the members of our church leaned over and reminded me that all this attention meant I was loved. I suppose it does. Down deep it was very affirming, but for a little while I wished I could be loved just a little less.
All this reminiscing made something very apparent to me. I was raised in the very church we celebrated, and I got to raise both of my kids in the same church, making me a very blessed individual. Without a doubt the church – and more specifically the people of my church family – have had a huge impact on my life and my children’s lives.
My earliest memories were of the church, running the hallways and, yes, of getting in trouble during church. It was a place where I met friends, gained mentors and a whole lot of brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles and grandparents who may not be related by blood but share a kinship that is nearly as strong. I got to see the same thing happen for my kids, and I truly believe that is something most of society is missing out on.
Nearly every Sunday – and often one or two other days in a week – I went to a place where I knew I was safe, loved and needed. I was blessed with many examples of how to be a good person, a good spouse and a good parent. Sure, over the years, people came and went but the core group of family stayed in the church. They were always there when I needed them – and that was every week. Like all families, we have had our share of ups and downs, good times and bad but the church and my church family were always there.
I know I didn’t appreciate it like I should have. When I left for college, I thought I could finally sleep in on Sunday mornings, but I soon found that there was something missing. That foundation was put into place by the family who were there for me in my home church. Later I saw the same thing with my own children, and that is when I began to appreciate it.
I wonder how families do it without the support of a church. I cannot imagine my life without the guidance and love that was shown to me every week. That is the problem many face. We have become a society with no time for church and no more room in our busy schedules. I wonder what kind of a hole that leaves.
Looking back, I think of all the people in my church family and what each of them contributed to who I am, and I cannot imagine not having that experience. We see so many people lost and missing something and maybe that missing piece is a church family. They are missing the safe place, guidance, mentoring, modeling how a good life is lived and most importantly they are missing the love of an extended family.
I have been blessed in so many ways but one of the biggest blessings is that I had parents who recognized the importance of being a part of a church and who, at times, willed me to be a part. This weekend was an important reminder of just what that means to me and to my own family. I guess if I could have one wish that would make this world a better place it would be that everyone would find a church home that they feel comfortable and safe in.
In the end, I guess it is OK that many of the memories shared were of me embarrassing my parents during the children’s sermon. Even now I enjoy the innocent outbursts during the children’s message that sends young parents sliding under the pews. I have been there and done both the outbursts and the sliding, and it was all worth it. My friend was right, those memories proved I was loved, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.
Glenn Brunkow is a fifth-generation farmer in the Northern Flint Hills of Pottawatomie County in Kansas. He was a county Extension agent for 19 years before returning to farm and ranch full time. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.