I can’t eat a homemade chocolate chip cookie without craving watered down tropical punch Kool-Aid to go with it. Weird, I know. Cookies and Kool-Aid are actually time traveling devices that transport me back to 90 degree mornings outside on the front walkway of the church during the best week of my summer, Vacation Bible School. Every summer, at our small Lutheran church, the halls were transformed and the cookies were baked. I loved our little church. I went every single Sunday, well almost. I had a God-mother who took her title very seriously and expected us to show up, me with my panty hose and patent leather shoes. Church was a place where I belonged, even though most of the time I was the only kid in my class. My teacher still showed up every week, to teach, just me. I wasn’t ever combined with another class or made to feel like I wasn’t important enough to be taught.
After Sunday school I would walk over to the church building, where the women were scattered about in the kitchen, making coffee and serving cookies. The men were picking up chairs or standing waiting on their women. I would sit next to my grandmother, waiting for her to dig out a piece of gum for me, always making too much noise and gaining disapproving looks from everyone around. She would simply roll her eyes and make all the noise she wanted, even during prayer. I made sure to memorize all of the liturgies and “sayings’. I would flip through the hymnals and pretend that I could sing, and that I knew them all. I don’t ever remember saying that I didn’t want to go, or that I was ready to leave.
I loved church.
I still love church.
Church was such a safe place for me, away from the realities of my somewhat dysfunctional and painful life. Somehow, a midst all of it, Jesus found me there in that church . I was in Christmas plays, and read from the Bible on Sunday mornings. We went to banquets and dinners and celebrated holidays and grieved the dead.
Best friends were made at church, and those friends, somehow became family. Life happened at my little Lutheran church on the corner of that aging neighborhood. I found eternity at church, ministry was planted in my heart at that small church, the love of Christ became real there through people and family and experiences.
There is a part of me that feels like this is the intended definition, and maybe what I still search for. Or maybe it’s just a really great childhood memory that I relentless try to recreate. Whatever it is, it’s something. And I keep looking for it. The countless churches I’ve tried and prayed about it and sought after all were missing it. Even though ‘COMMUNITY’ was in the name of most of the churches, community is what lacked most. I give high fives to those that try to create and imitate, but it just can’t be forced. It just can’t be programmed or designed or modeled.
That little church growing up really understood genuine love and concern.
Most churches miss that…
Our society misses that…
How do we fix it?! Ironically, the church is where it must start.
What is your favorite church community memory? What are some things you see working in the church?