One Saturday night in early June the Morton congregation gathered to honor our most recent high school graduate, my daughter, Laura. As they do for all our graduates, the Presbyterian Women asked Laura what she would like to have on the menu, and she asked for chicken pastry, a local favorite, and whatever covered dishes people wanted to bring. Laura is an artist, so the women turned the fellowship hall into an art gallery showcasing Laura’s work from toddlerhood to now.
People stood and told Laura what she means to them, wished her well, and promised to pray for her as she goes forward through her studies at Guilford College and beyond. One of our ruling elders presented her with a study Bible inscribed from the congregation.
Mine weren’t the only eyes that were overflowing. I could barely get the words out as I tried to tell the congregation how much their loving, active support has meant to Laura, my husband, John, and our family through the years, starting on the Sunday a few months before her birth when I stood beside the baptismal font and told them that we would soon need to use it because we had a baby on the way.
In the years to come, Laura will remember the Morton saints and what they have taught her about love and compassion, and service and justice and righteousness. She will remember serving alongside them in ministry. I am so glad that she has grown up knowing and observing these folks over a long period of time. I had that experience in the small church where I grew up, and I still remember the lessons I learned from those saints. I still want to be like them. Many of them have finished the race, and I look forward to a glad reunion with them one day.
I asked another grown-up child of Morton Church what this experience has meant to him. Andy is now a Ph.D. candidate in chemistry at a university in California. He said that he has taken all the Morton saints with him. They–we–go with him as he moves through life. When our grown-up children come home, we love to bless them all over again and send them back out on whatever missions God has for them.
I wish every child could have an experience like this, to grow up knowing a number of strong mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers, sisters and brothers in the faith. I wish every child could have a graduation party like the one the church gave my daughter. I wish every child could experience God’s love in this way. Next year we’ll be celebrating Elizabeth’s graduation, and once again, we’ll need to make sure the kleenex box is on hand.
Friends, if someone tells you that small churches don’t have anything to offer children, I invite you to join me in begging to differ. Small churches of loving, committed people can be just the cloud of witnesses that children need to grow into loving adult disciples of Jesus Christ.
Thank you, Morton Church! Thank you, God!