Brett and I joined Emmanuel in 1995 when our daughter Christina was about a year and a half old. We were looking for a nice church community and a place to get her baptized. Luckily, we lived right next door to Bob and Beth Carragher and they recommended Emmanuel for both the welcoming church community and the preschool. I thought, "How great is this? We can walk to church and preschool with our neighbors!" They invited us along one Sunday and we felt right at home. Christina was baptized with some squirming and unhappiness with wet hair (she yelled out, "Wipe!") but of course no one was judgmental about a poorly behaved little toddler. We had a wonderful experience with our first time at ShrineMont, when I was hugely pregnant with our son, Marcus, which sealed the deal.
I taught Sunday school for about 10 years and enjoyed getting to know the other young families. Both kids were acolytes and sang in the kids' choir, attended ShrineMont camps, and Brett made the wooden cross that hangs at the front of the church. We've greatly enjoyed being a part of the Emmanuel community and being enriched, spiritually, and through friendships.
It's easy to explain why any church community is valuable in my life but I could find that fellowship many places. The reason why we've stayed so many years at Emmanuel, frankly, is because I know that literally anyone is welcome here. There is no over-riding dogma to which you have to profess loyalty and undying belief in. You're also free to change your beliefs as you explore your faith. I have known countless friends who left their church communities because they felt judged or excluded or they couldn't believe in what was being preached from the pulpit. It's sad that other churches struggle to tell the Christian story in a way that invites, rather than repels, people. It's sad that petty dominance issues can divide communities. Emmanuel always feels united in its uncontested welcome to all.
We have wonderful memories over these nearly 30 years of Emmanuel fellowship. I always remember Paul Frank and his joyous piano-playing and singing; Jennifer Adams' hats, Via Saunder’s biscuits, the Buckman family's help to me with the Yard Sale, Miss Barbara at Meade Memorial's bag lunch duty and Karen Coda's tireless organization of it, ShrineMont dip-netting for salamanders with the Overstreet's and the Keefe's, going to the Indian reservation with the Franks and others, and of course that time when Perry Conner and Marcus ran into each other in the memorial room while racing and Marcus' baby tooth fell out! Many more memories are out there to be made and we hope to be a part of Emmanuel Church for the rest of our hopefully long lives. Thank you to Chuck for inviting me to submit my reflections!