I officially became a member of a local church this morning. It was a decision a long time in coming. Perhaps all my life has prepared me for this - it wasn't that big of a deal ... really... and yet for me it seems significant. It seems like one of those moments that I'll look back on and say - hmmm, that was milestone event.
I remember the first time I became a member of a local church. I was 13. I was actually too young by many standards. That church had strict rules about everything. They were Norwegian - Norwegian and rules and order often go hand in hand. I had spent my 13th birthday in the hospital. I knew I had committed my life to following Christ. I had been filled with the Spirit. I made my petition to the church elders to let me be baptized. I wasn't interested so much in becoming a member of the church but once they baptized you, you were a member. The question for them was not so much about whether I was eligible for baptism but whether I was eligible to be a member. In a surprising move, they decided to baptize me and make me a member of the church. The youngest person up to that time to be baptized.
The church had built a beautiful baptistery a short time before. It had a flowing picture of the Jordan for emphasis. The heavy drapes were pushed back, the tank filled, and down I went into the water. An older woman in the church was assigned to help me with getting prepared and she dried my hair when I was done. Much to the chagrin of all concerned, I didn't stay in the prayer room long enough that night. I went for ice cream at Helbergs with the "young people." I was 13.
When we left that church a year later, I became a "junior member" of the next church - their rules were different. When we moved to Missouri, after wandering to find a church, we settled on First Assembly under the leadership of the Rev. Charles Parker. I married that first year at the ripe age of 16. If you haven't read my story, click here.
I had a problem with their rules. Their rules required I sign a covenant card that said I wouldn't wear sleeveless dresses or pants (pants were men's attire), go to movies, play cards, smoke, drink, or mixed bath - the mixed bathing was my favorite. It meant I wouldn't swim at the same time as members of the opposite sex. I probably forgot something but nevertheless, I didn't want to sign the card. My husband was being welcomed as a member. Brother Parker came to me on the second row where we always sat and suggested I become a member too. I said, but I haven't signed the covenant card. He said, you can do that later. Later never came. I was hugged and given the right hand of fellowship anyway.
I've been member of a few other churches since then. All of them have been one or another type of Pentecostal/Assembly of God/Charismatic church. Today I was welcomed as a member of a United Methodist Church. It was odd how right it seemed.
When the Pastor called my name and asked me to come to the front to help serve the Lord's Table, I fought back tears. No one knew what was going inside of me. I hide things well. I was humbled to think that I had a place. I had a place at God's table not just to receive but to serve. As each person came by and dipped the Body and I said "the blood of Christ" - joy of inclusion overtook me. God's arms are always open because of the broken Body and shed Blood of Jesus, the Christ.
I don't know what God is up to - I do know I'm doing my best to follow Christ.
This has been an interesting week - the hint of a job, a new church home, and commissioning as the new Middle Tennessee Regional Coordinator for the National Day of Prayer Task Force. I was humbled at the prayer summit. I wondered how I got there... and yet, it seemed so right. I raised my hands in surrender to all God had for me to do - I received the blessing and the anointing for this assignment. As I said "I Will" this morning to pledge myself again to the cause of Christ and accept God's call to work in His vineyard through the United Methodist Church it just seemed so right.