Charlene and I were married at Mizpah United Church of Christ, in Hopkins, on the hottest day of 1987. I had never heard of the United Church of Christ. I was Catholic by tradition and “to be determined” in practice. I picked Mizpah out of the Yellow Pages because we needed a place to get married and the Yellow Pages ad made the church sound like an open-minded, liberal kind of place, which generally matched up with my outlook.
After getting married, we kept going to Mizpah. Molly and Graham were both baptized there. Charlene taught Sunday school and coordinated the Loaves and Fishes program. I was on the stewardship committee. But I started to drift away. The appeal of staying home on a Sunday morning was stronger than the appeal of traipsing all the way to Hopkins to go to church. I went less and less frequently until I stopped going all together, putting myself back in the “to be determined” column. I joked about becoming a Druid. Charlene was more committed than I was and she kept going regularly. But eventually my lack of enthusiasm drained hers away and she finally joined me at home on Sundays.
And that’s the way it was for quite a while. To be determined. We drove past Parkway lots of times without giving it much thought. At some point, we decided to check it out. It was 2001. Molly was twelve and Graham was eight. I wanted, especially, to make sure my kids had a solid understanding of what Christianity was about so that they could make informed decisions about their own faith some day.
So, we decided to give Parkway a look. To be honest, it didn’t really grab us right away. But we kept at it. We wanted to give it a fair shot. Little by little, we got to know the people of Parkway and they got to know us. We got involved. Charlene taught Sunday school and I was surprised to find myself singing in the choir. We made “church friends.” Charlene was baptized at Parkway on a sunny Easter morning. “Church friends” became “friends.” Parkway became our home.
Time passes and change happens. On September 15, I will join a new church for the third time. (I don’t count my Catholic upbringing; I didn’t so much join that church as I was conscripted into it.) I am blessed that so many of my friends will be joining with me. And based on my experience, will recall that joining a church isn’t an event, it is a process.