We scrolled all the way down to check: “Telling Our Stories” posted its first entry in December of 2012. As the 20-teens come to an end, we might be shy of a full decade but we've hit the very Biblical seven-year mark. (And we’ve posted in every year that’s an actual teen.) Here are excerpts from our writers in 2019, followed by a few moments from years past.
Opening our senses to be in nature in a slow, deep, satisfying way surely will make us more grateful for the gift, less interested in exploiting it, more eager to take care of it. … Nature was meant to bless us.
If I were a leaf,
I’d know it would not last.
Quiescent, I would wait
for dryness and for rustle
for words of wisdom from my neighbors as they waved goodbye
for nudging from the branch that gave me birth
for breeze to lift me off
and dance with me in pirouette as I went down.
When I first drew more from the image of the Psalmists’ rock, I thought of an anchor. Something that holds fast in unsettled waters.…I’m happy to be a part of GPPC. I’m anchored here. There’s rock here!
I’ve been at GPPC since B.C. - that’s Before Carla.
That first Sunday an elder told us we were very much welcomed and very much needed. What a gift to be told you're needed! Four years later when I was asked to consider a call to serve as an elder, the decision was easy.
Ann Foster Marinner
I think of Ginter Park as my family, as my home. I think with that, there’ve been things that have been really positive and things that have been harder. I’ve seen our church go from passively welcoming to actively welcoming. I think a decade ago we were actively welcoming, but I think we’re actively welcoming now in a different way.
I want to know, serve, and love my new church.
But mostly its people.
Mary Jo McFadden
“But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’” (Luke 10:29, NRSV).
Wanting to justify himself . . . Ah, here it is. We construct rationales when we don’t want to sacrifice our convenience or comfort to do what is right. If those people don’t count as my neighbors, then I don’t have to love them as myself, right? If the city doesn’t cater to people like me, then we’ll just move out and leave them without our tax dollars, right? We can almost couch protecting our privilege and excluding others in noble terms . . . almost.
For months [after surviving a heart attack] I was constantly thinking about what this meant. It was troubling me all the time. What was the big thing I was supposed to do?
In the mean time I was volunteering at Habitat for Humanity building houses and serving on a committee for them, helping my sons with handyman work and offering advice, babysitting my new grandson and coaching a boys tennis team.
One day it dawned on me that it did not have to be a big thing but simply being there to help others.
Sandy Elliot led a Sunday School class about her work with the Virginia Center for Restorative Justice and specifically about the classes on Conflict Resolution at the Women’s Prison in Goochland. It was like a great big finger from heaven came down and bopped me on the head and said, “Hey, Sally, you’re looking for what you can do - listen up, girl!”
The choir sings “Glory to God in the highest” with that same tower-bell theme, firing off high A-flats with unrelenting enthusiasm – are these angels or fireworks? Hundreds of composers have set these words to music, but has any one of them done so more accurately than Finzi? Could this be exactly what a choir of angels sounded like?
This Christmas, I want to stand closer to the little family whose greatest possessions, by far, were their ability to hear and receive God’s voice and to trust in God’s call and care.
The one constant through this journey [membership, teaching, Seminary] has been GPPC. You are my home, my safe place, my training ground, my constructive criticism, my encouragement, and my friends. You have been the place where I heard God speaking clearly, and where I found the courage to listen and let myself be transformed.
I also love knowing that my children will grow up in a church that invites their spontaneous participation to such a degree that children dance during “Somos Uno,” full of the Holy Spirit. They are invited to the front during baptisms and asked for their help in raising other children. They often help write parts of the service and bake the bread for communion. And my seven-year-old son Kent can run down the stairs from the choir loft, then dash up the aisle to see Carla’s book during the sermon, as he did last week. Everyone’s faces and hearts invited him to do that. This, to me, is exactly the right place to be.
God spoke to me directly and clearly. I would have preferred a ‘yes’ to my ‘no’, but experiencing physically the sense of being held close by your prayers and God’s love in the midst of the worst thing I could have ever imagined was a powerful and moving experience.
I try to avoid a bumper sticker approach to religion — mysterious notions about our relationship with God boiled down to one-liner litmus tests. So I find myself torn between parsing the words in the ancient creeds, and shying away from easy explanation.
Yet there is one short, quick phrase that I return to, when religion starts to get too confusing for me. My own little bumper sticker-style simplification. When the polity and doctrines feel overwhelming, I return to this simple grounding of my faith: God is love.
She explained that her young son had run from the bathtub straight into her office, naked, and her husband had chased him with a towel, eventually catching him and carrying him out.
In that moment, everyone on the Pastor Nominating Committee wanted to meet this Carla face to face.
Anne Westrick & the Pastor Nominating Committee
What I have realized …. is that WE are the kingdom builders. That is OUR call together. We are called here to love one another NOW. We cannot wait for a leader who acknowledges that call. We must continue to be a light for the marginalized. We aren’t called here to be comfortable or free from conflict. We aren’t called here to be free from anger or obstacles. We are called here, to this corner of Chamberlayne and Walton Avenues, to show a radical love like the world has never seen. We are called here to shake things up. To put more chairs around the table.
The benediction [for Rachel Held Evans’ funeral] reminded me, that my story is my story. And your story is your story. We need to tell those stories and share them. Together, they make up our collective story--the one where death does not triumph. We need to be bold enough to tell the truth and bold enough to listen. Bold enough to be uncomfortable. Bold enough to sit at the tomb with our grief for a little while. Eshet chayil. May we know them, may we be them. With God’s help, may we all be people of valor.
Our blog sprang fully formed (pretty much) from the vision of Ann Knox and Jess Cook, who undertook a major website redesign for the church in 2012. Alicia Newman is our current web master, and she’s facilitated space for every past entry of “Telling Our Stories”. Scrolling back through the years yields some great reading. If you would like to contribute to the blog in 2020, please let Alfred Walker know.