I’ve never really been very religious. When I was little, I thought church was a thing that kids were dragged to, and then it just became a habit. I still would not call myself outwardly religious, but over the years I have realized that the church provides my community. It was not really until a few weeks ago at Ridley Brown’s funeral that I realized how much of a community this church actually is for me. For those of you who do not know, I acolyted at Mr. Brown’s funeral because his family remembers my family - my mom, my aunt, my grandparents - and asked if someone from our family would acolyte. It was the fact that a family that I had never met before cared enough about my family that they wanted me to be part of the service. At the funeral I heard how much this church had meant to his family, and I realized how much I had taken what I have learned from this church for granted. This church has taught me so many things that I never realized until now.
This church has taught me patience, like when I was young and thought that the church service was the multiple hours long. I have learned compassion and acceptance for everyone no matter their background - something I am proud that Episcopal Church promotes and does well. Years of serving as an acolyte has taught me responsibility and to appreciate the ritual of the church service.
There are so many memories I have from this church. I remember Sunday School with other kids, many who have now moved away. And I remember singing before church services lead by Mrs. Gunn. My favorite song was always The Butterfly Song which goes, “If I were a butterfly, I would thank you, Lord, for giving me wings.” Then we would be in Children’s Chapel where we would have our own mini church service including vestments and a procession before heading into the church during the peace to sit with our parents the rest of the service. I also remember the multiple Christmas pageants that I was part of ranging from being an angel to being the back half of the donkey (Katie Wells was the front half).
One of the most recent things I did was to help hand out jelly beans to the runners in the marathon. Being able to see how many people said that the jelly beans were their favorite part, or they had been waiting 14 miles for this, and seeing people light up when they found out what they were getting showed me on a small scale how much of what our church does affects people both inside and outside of the church’s community.
I have met so many people at different stages of life in this church and have gone through a lot of stages myself, from being part of a triple baptism here with my two cousins eighteen years ago to becoming an acolyte and learning different jobs starting at candles and working my way up to being MC. I was recently looking through my family’s genealogy binder and saw the program from my great-grand father’s funeral. Larry Bouton was an acolyte at my great grandfather’s funeral. Ironically, I was then an acolyte at Mr. Bouton’s funeral. I appreciate how tied together people in our church are and that it forms a strong community through the years.
I have seen this church change in so many ways. I remember or have served under five different priests and then there was the fire that threatened the rectory last year. These have all taught me that this community is determined to survive anything and come out stronger on the other side. This church has been a part of my life, and I am glad I have realized how big a part of my life it is before I move away for college. Thank you, Emmanuel for giving me wings.