It was a compromise, really.
Julie was raised Christian Scientist.
I was a devout Catholic, altar boy, St. Anne’s School, the whole bit.
As we dated, I went with her to her church…and she went with me to mine. Double duty Sunday mornings.
One day, it occurred to us that whether you were praying in German, French, Italian or Swiss, you were probably praying to the same God. The Lord’s Prayer was the Lord’s Prayer in any language. All we had to do was find that compromise church…
It was the warmth, the wisdom and the welcome of Dr. Toole that brought us to Towson Presbyterian Church. We joined in 1987 and quietly came most Sundays.
Territorial as ever, we got to know the back of the heads of those who sat in front of us and the profiles of those who sat to our sides.
In 1988, Julie’s hand was placed in mine right at this altar as we married.
Though we lived a half hour away in Fallston, TPC was never an interruption to our Sunday; it was what we based our Sunday activities around. We began to actually see the front of those mysterious Bickels who sat in front of us and talk with Louise Kunkel on our right.
As our family grew, our children were baptized here and we shared the prize of watching Scottie and Shelby in one of Sue Thompson’s many generations of Marys and Josephs. Our kids received their Bibles here, were confirmed right here, and muddied up at Camp Bee Tree. Julie and I volunteered in the Nursery, lip synched Christmas Caroling with the bus loads in December, brought home communions, ran the dreaded Water Slide, lettered Alternative Gift Mart cards, sent birthday cards, and, several times, shared the Gospel of Mark with some promising young men, laying the groundwork – God’s groundwork – for a closeness that would prove to strengthen our family into a smaller group of three that could endure the loss of our hub with faith and trust in the years to come.
I was actually kind of stunned to be invited to be a member of the Pastor Nominating Committee which eventually brought Lindley De Garmo here. It was during that year and a half that I learned to risk praying out loud.
In the years since, I have been honored and humbled with the trust you have allowed me to pray on our behalves, talking with God among you out loud at this very pulpit.
I have been given the opportunity to experience the honor of serving as a deacon three times and an Elder once and am now humbly privileged to be working as co-moderator with 23 of the most caring and supportive deacons TPC has ever enjoyed. They are not just Deacons from 8:30 to 11:00 AM on Sunday mornings. They are 24/7. Not sure what a deacon is? Just watch them…
After 24 years of marriage, in 2013, I escorted my beloved wife one final time up this aisle again, returning her hand to the only Being that could love her more than I did and, though numb on that day, I have since many times looked back in utter awe at how our family had grown and this church was filled, 540 strong…
The courtyard has for five years now been a respite of comfort and company where I encounter love and faith in the quiet sunlight. The sun shines in here some days and you can see the colors on the walls but, I swear, some days sitting out there, I feel as though the sun is shining from in here to out there. I think my goal is to rub off the upper left serif on the bronze letter “K” as I talk with both God and Julie each Sunday out there.
Comfort is more than air conditioning and cushioned seats.
Comfort is feeling at ease in God’s arms, praying here. Look at the outstretched trusses over our heads. Can’t you just feel it?
It’s feeling at ease letting tears roll down my cheeks here to the sounds of Stephen’s music and William and Katie’s solos.
Though old enough to be Joel’s or Rob’s father, I find a spiritual paternalism in them and their words as both young fathers to their families as well as pastoral parents to me. Not just idly sitting but listening and thinking here on Sundays, I can soak in Joel and Rob’s thoughts for the week and that’s actually where I find seeds for 7 days of joy and faith…and Joy is a big word in this church these days, isn’t it?…
Most recently, with Joel’s encouragement, I attended a workshop for elders who might like to preach and found a part of myself that I did not even know existed. But he did.
Although she is now in Vermont, I cannot wait to hug Sara Larrabee every Sunday, albeit in spirit. I have found a sister in Pat Keller.
In 1987, I came to find friends in Christ. Today, and even more fitting, I know that I have also found Christ in friends: Dotsie and Ross Bregel.
The two side walls are adorned with stained glass windows depicting saints who have witnessed for decades, with unblinking eyes, generations of prayerful worshippers in these pews. But there is also a clear glass window right behind me at the front of this church, not just brass and wood, that allows us all to see directly into God’s loving and warmly smiling face…
Although my spot in the third row may look a little more empty these days as my children are exploring churches in Annapolis and Boston, I am not alone.
This is my church building.
But you are my church.
May God continue to bless you.