We are gratified to present faith stories shared by GPPC members in worship this past Pentecost Sunday. Each of our contributors mentored a young person who joined the church that day, except for Evan Booth who teaches the youth in Sunday School.
Carla’s introduction: One of the things that attracted me to this congregation over ten years ago was a statement in your description of the church – what’s also reflected on our sign out front – that here the ministers are all the members of the church. The pastor serves a particular function, but the strength of this congregation is understood to be in its membership, and in the variety of gifts God’s Spirit activates in us and inspires us to share for the common good.
That seems especially clear to me today, as six of our young people prepare to confirm their intention to follow Jesus Christ. I’m aware of all the folks within this congregation who have ministered to them – listening to them, teaching them, cooking dinner for them, working alongside them; we help each other to glimpse and even to know God’s love.
Pentecost is the day we believe God’s Spirit first came to people like you and me and made us ministers of the church of Jesus Christ. The Spirit makes us able not only to experience God’s good news for us, but also to share it, and even to talk about it. That’s what I asked a few of you to do today – to speak about some aspect of your faith or life in the church or “God’s good news” and how you have experienced it yourself.
Faith is a fairly new endeavor for me.
Almost 3 years a go I really had nowhere else to turn, but to faith. I have always been a “member” of this church, but never a practicing member. Carla sat with me one day to help me “get right” with the church.
“Help us carry our message” is what she said.
Anne Westrick saw something in me that I couldn’t and asked if I wanted to help with Sunday School. A day later, the email came saying I was going to be – a leader?? Be careful what you wish for I suppose. I have been taught not to say no when it comes to service. One thing that I am not up to verse in is the Bible. One thing I do know about is trusting and believing in a God that makes sense to me. Like anyone else, I am not perfect at having complete faith, and I like to choose when to have faith. I have also learned that God is everything or nothing. I want to believe, today, that God is everything.
Helping with Sunday School has been really cool. Neat to see the kids – well, students – well, young adults – well, these guys and girls make this decision to join the church. On their own – which I think is the most important part. There has to be faith in there somewhere – that this is going to work out, that this is the right thing to do, or that this is… whatever? “Whatever” and “sure” are the cornerstone of my faith that has grown into something I never could have imagined. One thing that Elizabeth Eason and I harped on this year was sort of a “question everything” philosophy that allowed everyone to form an individual mold of their belief. I cannot imagine everyone in here believes the EXACT same thing, although we are all probably fairly close.
It has been really cool to help GPPC carry a very clear message of love, acceptance, tolerance, and hope among countless others. That is a fight I can get behind. When it comes to God and faith – if it makes sense and is rooted in love, then it works for me.
Thank you for letting me have the opportunity to help out!
How can I talk about how the Holy Spirit guides my faith?
I am a very concrete, linear person with very little imagination; faith and Holy Spirit are two very abstract concepts. Most of you know that I’m much more comfortable baking cookies or digging a garden than I am speaking in public! As I pondered a way to express my understanding of the Holy Spirit’s leading in my life I identified the phrase, “do not be afraid”, which occurs in many Bible passages and sermons. Most recently Carla preached a sermon on April 16 of this year with that very title; it is worth reading again on the church website. I believe the encouragement to “be not afraid” is the way the Holy Spirit supports and sustains me when I enter into unfamiliar situations. Here are some examples:
When I go into unfamiliar neighborhoods that are considered dangerous or undesirable and am able to see the community and beauty that thrives there
When I strike up a conversation with someone I have not met before
When I welcome a stranger into my home
When I go to another city or another country and find my way around all by myself
When I try to help someone solve a problem where I have to learn along with that person, or maybe even learn from that person
When, years ago, I transported a group of adult home residents to a picnic and one of the guys told me he had shot someone
When I tried (and succeeded!) in getting Randolph Hayes into my car from a wheelchair so he could come to Sunday School and worship
When I attempt a hike that I found challenging 10 years ago and manage to stay on my feet
When I go to comfort someone who is suffering or grieving
When I agree to speak in a public forum such as this one, where I am girded by the encouragement to “be not afraid” and I am sustained by the love and acceptance of this community.
Doubt. I want to talk about that.
Doubt is part of who I am. It’s part of being a reporter, which is also part of who I am.
I’m afraid that if I had been one of the disciples, when Jesus rose from the dead and revealed himself, I’d have been right there with Thomas, asking questions and scribbling in my reporter’s notebook – wanting to see the marks on the hands, wanting to touch the wound in Christ’s side.
Can doubt and faith co-exist? I believe they can, they must. I believe doubt is part of my life in faith and in this great church.
As one who was privileged to be a mentor in this awesome confirmation process, that was part of what I had to say – that doubt is not a disqualifier. It’s not a disqualifier for life as a Christian, it’s not a disqualifier for life as part of Ginter Park Presbyterian.
This is a place of learning. This is a place of open minds and open hearts. This is a place of God’s grace. I’ve been part of Ginter Park for 25 years now. It has helped me change and I trust it’s not through helping me change.
This church has a way of helping you understand your doubt as you explore your faith and how it is to be lived. This church opens its arms to all, including those who doubt. If you are someone who feels that need to express doubt – to ask to see and touch the wounds of Christ – this church will hold you close.
That, my young friends and my old friends, reveals the love of Ginter Park Presbyterian Church and the love of Christ, who was ever so gentle with Doubting Thomas.
Next Saturday, we will post reflections from Doug Brown, Carla Pratt Keyes, Ann Knox, and Anne Westrick.