About a week ago, Sheila and I sent an email to several of our friends from the Highland Church of Christ announcing something that – unofficially at least – a lot of them had seen coming for some time: on Sunday, September 7, we officially became members at St. Paul United Methodist Church.
The move is a homecoming of sorts for Sheila who, when we started dating back in….well, lets just say it was a long time ago… was herself a Methodist. For me, it is a totally new – but exciting – experience.
One thing that has struck me during this transition is how nice it has been to move from “strength to strength,” as one Psalmist put it. Not everyone walks away from – or into – faith communities that are as strong as these two.
Highland is a remarkable faith community – a place for those among the Churches of Christ who long for deep, reflective preaching and teaching that isn’t hesitant to wander away from the “orthodoxy” of her sister churches. St. Paul also occupies its own unique place among its sister churches. In an era where Methodist churches are opting for contemporary and/or mixed worship styles, St. Paul remains devoted to the implementation of a traditional liturgy that reaches back across the centuries. Worship at Highland and St. Paul is a profound contrast – both in style and substance. Yet both communities are filled with people who are loving, and who are devoted to lives of faithful service.
What surprised us in writing the email was just how complex a task it was to explain the change. The fact was that the reasons for the move were numerous and much more complex and nuanced than we could ever put into 5-6 paragraphs.
At the center of the move, though, are Levi, Rachel, and Lexi, our three older kids, all of whom – during the last year – have found a home in the St. Paul youth group, where our good friend Trey Gillette is youth minister.
Youth groups – at least, those that are in Abilene – are odd things. Things that seem to work for certain types of kids within certain populations don’t seem to work at all for others. At Highland, we had a fantastic pair of youth ministers in Sarah Campbell and Michael Mercer – and the program at Highland is very successful. On top of that, we continue to consider Sarah to be one of our family friends. Yet, for various reasons, it is Trey’s philosophy and approach to doing youth ministry that is resonating with our kids at this moment.
I remarked to a friend one time about how I never understood the way families would move to new churches just because their kids wanted to be in the youth program. Honestly – I wondered – does it matter that much? Now, I’m beginning to see the power of what it means for your kids to find a place – especially during their adolescent years – where their faith can flourish.
For those friends of mine who remain behind in Restoration tradition churches, and for those Methodists out there who are curious about how a newcomer views their faith community, I will have a lot more to say about differences in worship experiences and theology in coming posts. During those posts, you will read about the synergy between Wesleyan theology and my own spiritual journey. However, in the end, the tough decision to make this change had much less to do with my own theological preferences, and a lot more to do with the pragmatics of our family’s spiritual life.
More to come.