Most of my life has been centered around church. My parents belonged to two different faith communities. My father’s church was part of the CME denomination. My mother’s church became a United Methodist Church in 1968. Over the years, my sisters and I would alternate between services, depending on which pastor was preaching or what celebration was occurring. Church was my home away from home. The ladies of the church were my teachers, mentors and surrogate mothers. Like my father, the men of the church served as stewards, ushers, lay leaders, orators and prayer warriors.
Each time I moved, one of the first things I did was find a church home. In Memphis, in Iowa City and even in Detroit, I searched for a place to continue my relationship with the Lord. I have to admit that I wasn’t always able to attend church. Growing up, I was sick a lot. I had bronchitis and tonsillitis almost every winter. People from church would send care packages to let me know they were praying for me and hoping to see me again soon.
I was seriously ill during my 22nd year and was unable to attend church for most of that time. Back then, the only services available were from televangelists like Ernest Angley and Jimmy Swaggert. Their message and invitation did not resonate with me.
In my early 20s, I had a crisis of faith. After finding a church where I could be Margie and not Helen’s or Robert’s daughter, the pastor was removed because of an extramarital affair. When I returned to my mother’s church, her married pastor made a pass at me. I learned a few days later that he had also made a pass at my sister and other women in the church. That’s when I stopped going to church.
I still discovered ways to hear the Lord’s voice. I listened to the testimony and witness of my friends who were discovering how God was transforming their lives. At the time, most of them didn’t have a church home either. The Lord was with us as we explored what it meant and what it means to be a child of God. I can remember my first religion class and how the professor brought new meaning to the story of the Exodus. It was in that class that my faith was renewed. I celebrated that moment when I returned to church, and I continue to celebrate it, each time I relive the Exodus story.
We are recreating what it means to be the church. House church in the 21st century looks far different than it did in the 1st century. We are reaching people who have never heard the Lord’s story before, and others who haven’t heard it in a long time. We are sharing our own witness and testimony of what it means to be a child of God. We are planting seeds of faith as we journey through a time of sheltering in place. We are broadcasting or watching stories of faith from our living rooms, home offices or studies. Virtual Bible Study and prayer meetings are happening daily. As our buildings are experiencing a kind of Sabbath from worship, we are still connected through our faith. Our relationship with our Creator is transforming. It is becoming something new as we truly experience that whenever two or three gather, the Lord is with us. And Amen.