Recalling “home” church memories remind us that planting churches creates new memories
By Don Morris, Mission USA director
As we plant Mennonite Brethren churches, we are providing for more people to become followers of Jesus. We’re also starting someone’s home church. And that’s something huge.
I grew up on a farm near Ulysses, Kan., where my family attended the United Methodist Church. We were the last ones to leave almost every Sunday. My mother loved visiting with the other women. She would tell my sometimes-not-so-patient dad, “This is the only time of the week I get to see other people, I have to talk with them!”
After returning to Ulysses in 1978 after four years of college, my wife, Janna, and I began attending Ulysses MB Church and have been firmly Mennonite Brethren since then. Yet I have many fond memories of my childhood church.
I remember eating soup crackers out of a baggie during the worship service when I was little. I’m sure the reason for the crackers was to keep me quiet.
I recall sneaking into some of the nooks and crannies of the church building, finding little hiding places and playing hide-and-seek with the other kids. I remember raiding the church’s refrigerator and sipping communion grape juice.
I remember the stale smell of our rather old “Reverend,” as we called him. This same minister patted my head with water along with about 20 other middle school kids when it was time for our baptism. Side note: When I was 20 years old, I was immersed by Ken Ediger, now pastor at North Oak Community Church in Hays, Kan.
I remember listening to Three Dog Night and Iron Butterfly (people my age will know exactly the rock groups I’m referring to) before heading into the church for handbell practice. Now that was a strange mix of music genres.
One prayer gathering when I was around nine years old became a monumental moment in my life. I was the only child present. As several people prayed, God gripped my heart in a powerful way and I prayed out loud, among the adults, for the first time in my life. I felt an overwhelming sense of God’s presence at that moment, one I will likely never forget.
I also remember rededicating my life to Jesus while in high school, going to the front to kneel and experiencing God’s powerful presence once again.
I remember being married to my wife, Janna, in this church when we were both very young.
I remember my parents serving in so many capacities in this church, from hospitality to singing in the choir to teaching Sunday school. They had dozens of middle school-aged young people in their classes. They saw this church as a mission field.
I remember my dad’s funeral when this church was filled to overflowing and the place reverberated with Dad’s favorite hymn, “Blessed Assurance.” After the funeral, one long-time parishioner told me that he had never heard that hymn, or any other hymn, sung louder than at that service. It made me feel really good.
My mom continued to serve in the church until her health began to fail in 2009. For years she decorated (and I mean decorated) for every wedding and banquet held at the church.
Why am I telling you this? As we plant Mennonite Brethren churches, we are providing new pathways for more people to hear the gospel and become followers of Jesus. We’re also starting someone’s home church. And that’s something huge.