Thursday, September 27, 2007

My Church

Going away to college was a big deal at my church. I attended the Forest Grove United Methodist Church back home in Oregon, and you could say that I am Methodist, since my parents both are and I was baptized in one. Anyway, the second to last Sunday before I left, there was a big section of the service devoted to myself and another friend from church who was graduating also.

I should also let you know that my church has a fantastic youth program. It's undergone a lot of changes over the years, all of which I have been present for, and though I did very little to affect anything with it, it evolved into a great one with two amazing youth pastors. They're husband and wife, and they recently had a baby boy.

So at this service the youth group gave both of us diaries. What's more is that each member of my youth group had written in these diaries little notes to each of us. It was probably the most touching experience I've had at that church, and that's saying a lot considering there have been many special experiences there. Having all of those kids from my church write to me in itself was an amazing feeling. But the things that they wrote, about how much they would miss me and how much I meant to them and the church, made me understand, more than any other occasion in my life, how much that church and those people meant to me. When I think about it, that church allowed me to make friends that I never would have made if I hadn't attended. The memories and lessons from going there ever since I was little are absolutely priceless to me. I didnt even attend that often. As long as I can remember, the tradition with my family was to wake up Sunday morning and ask each other, "do you feel like going to church today". Sometimes there were things that happened during the week that would cause one or all of us to want to go, and if one of us wanted to go, then we would usually all go. Other times, if there was nothing special going on that Sunday, or if our Saturday had been a particularly late one, we just wouldn't go. And I'd think about what the rest of the congregation, the "regulars", thought about us. "Oh, the Hummels didn't show up again," I'd think, "they just aren't good followers". I would think that the rest of the congregation looked down upon us for not attending every Sunday. But that was never the case. If we didn't show up that was ok, and when we came, all the better. They never looked down on us, they simply appreciated us more, at least it seemed like to me, when we did attend!

And I attended youth group even less than I attended church. The one idea that I came up with for this youth group was "Breakfast Club". It started out as a Saturday morning thing where we would get together, make breakfast in the kitchen, then take it to the youth room where we would eat, watch a movie, and just discuss life, religious or not. This seemed like a good plan, but usually it would be me, Bobby (my youth pastor), and maybe one or two other people. Bobby would bring all this breakfast food (which he graciously usually paid for straight from his wallet) and there would be no one to eat it. Gradually, more people caught on, but then the issue of money came up. An idea was brought up to have one Saturday a month where we would make breakfast for the congregation, whoever felt like attending, instead of making ourselves breakfast. Yes, we would still pay for the food, but we were hoping on getting some donations. The food was free, but donations were welcome, that kind of idea. Well the first Saturday for this congregation breakfast was poorly announced, and only one person came. This one person however was a very well respected member of our church, and the following day at church he made an announcement to the entire congregation about how wonderful our food was, and how more people should come next month. That was apparently advertisemnt enough, because the very next month over thirty members came to breakfast, we nearly ran out of food, and gained almost two hundred dollars in donations. The point of telling this story is not to glorify myself, but to glorify my youth group and my church. My idea would have never travelled that far had it not been for the amazing people that I was surrounded by.

So Breafast Club took off, and once it did, for some reason, I started going less. I had almost stopped completely going to youth group meetings on Sunday evenings, and I rarely did any other youth group activites. But when I read those notes written to me in my journal which was to go with me to college, it was as if I had gone to every possible activity that there was.

I have gained some unbelievable lessons from my church days back home, but one of the greatest that I took is that with the right people, the right congregation, nobody will ever judge you on how often you attend church or go on activities. They judge you on your personality and actions while you are with them. If you are good to them when you see them, they will cherish every moment that you are with them, and in turn you cherish every moment you spend with them. I was always forgiven when I forgot an important activity or just didnt feel like attending service; my absence was taken with a grain of salt. But my presence was always an extra gift. I was welcome and I was family. As far as I'm concerned, they were my family too. They still are.

1 comment:

Paul Devitto said...

What made you stop attending church?