Yesterday I had the distinct pleasure (and I sincerely mean that) of accompanying my father to church. Recently I posted about changes in my life and many of them have to do with my dad right now. He has been advised by the doctor that, due to a condition he has, he should no longer be driving. Even before the doc pulled the rug on driving, I knew it was time. He will be 89 next month. Wow. So our family has a new commitment to get him everywhere he needs to go. As of late, he has two places that he has been regularly driving each week: the grocery store and church. So yesterday morning I rose early, prepared myself to attend church with him (instead of mine), and drove the 30 miles to pick him up. He was ready when I got there.
A little background. The church my dad still attends, he has been a member for 50 years. It is the church where I grew up. The church has been an entity for 160 years, and you might imagine that it has been through quite a few changes in just the 50 years since my daddy has been there. There have been slews of people come; slews of people leave. There have been many pastors over the years. And for the few people who have been members as long as my sweet father, there have been a slew of changes in them and many of them have died out. My dad is a simple man. He has the mentality if something ain't broke, don't fix it. He believes if something works, why buy a new one? He believes in devotion, longevity, and commitment. He is the most committed man I know. So many, many years ago when he joined this church, he knew he would be there a while, and since that time nothing has happened that has been able to run him off. He is not alarmed by an exodus of people, neither is he alarmed with an influx of people who are totally different from him. He stands by his church, his pastor, and the great people who make up his congregation.
I have visited with my dad a couple of times this last year since my mother passed away. Since I grew up in this church, I can totally see the metamorphosis that has taken place...a community in change, bringing in new people of all cultures, and people (like my daddy) who will be there right on, no matter who attends. The congregation has taken on a whole new identity these days with a very diverse group of people, which I always believe makes things way more interesting. This establishment sits on prime property in a suburb not far outside Atlanta. The community, like the church, has gone through many changes. But the church still stands, and has a new commitment to remain standing there so close to a major interstate that the roar of traffic can be heard in the subdivisions neighboring the church on the highway. The traffic can also be heard quite loud and clear from the graveyard where my mother is buried across the street. I hope she doesn't mind, because my mom never liked a lot of noise. I'm sure 40 years ago when my parents purchased the plots in that cemetery, they never dreamed the traffic on that particular interstate would ever be what it is today. But such it is with time and change.
It has always been a mystery to me that sometimes when a community changes and the area around the church is no longer filled with the people who once lived there but has taken on a whole new identity with people of many different cultures who have moved in, why it's necessary that the church moves. We have seen this happen many, many times over the years. A church serves a community for a long time, and when the community changes, the original congregation is out of there. They announce that the church will be moving to higher ground. And it always seems that the moving of a congregation contributes to decline in the neighborhhood and, once again, the community is hit with change from which it may never rebound. So I commend this church for its choice to remain steadfast when so many others fly the coop. It has suffered through many devastating setbacks, but it has remained a beacon in that community and, for that, I offer kudos to this church because, after all, isn't that what a church should be all about, the community that it serves along with the good, the bad, and the ugly that come along with it?
All that being said, I'll continue with my story. As we arrived in Daddy's class yesterday morning, he introduced me to all his classmates. I felt the pride as he beamed, "This is my daughter visiting with me this morning !" I too felt pride as these sweet elderly people introduced themselves and relayed to me how much they love my father. But my dad is a wonderful man, so that came as no surprise. It also came as no surprise that much of the time taken up at the beginning of class was devoted to praying for those who were sick, the families of those who had passed away, and the many concerns facing a group of older adults. The sign on the door as you come in says "Adults, aged 75 and over." As you might have already guessed, this class is the last class. It's the final stopping place on the way out. No matter how old you get, you will never again be promoted to the next age group. There is no "next age group." So I was the spring chicken yesterday morning. I almost felt as though I brought new energy to the room just by my presence, and I mean that literally. When a lot of their friends have passed away, and many are now homebound and too ill to attend, a young spritely 59-year-old is all it takes to bring in some new energy! Those sweet, sweet people. I guess maybe they felt about me like I feel when my kids come to visit with the energy that only 20 and 30-somethings have. I can totally relate.
But just as I am many times surprised by things in life, I was the one who was so blessed by these folks. They were a lively group (after all, they WERE there, dressed, and on time), and it was obvious they were a devoted group of followers -- not only to God, but to their church and class. Once little woman was tiny in statue, but very large in personality. She boldly announced as she came into the room that she was having a very bad hair day, and had decided at the last minute to donn her hot pink gardening hat, and she looked adorable in it! Then, as the class went on, it was apparent why the teacher asked this same woman to read. As she lifted her book and raised her head a bit (probably adjusting her bifocals), she read with the enthusiasm (AND the volume AND expression) of a thespian doling out words of great tragedy in some rendition of Shakespeare's Macbeth. It totally caught me off guard to say the least! Others of my dad's classmates were quieter, more subdued, but all equally welcoming, which leads me to wonder.....have I found a new place with these oldtimers, with these new friends who have lived life far longer than me and gained the wisdom that a girl can only hope for in her latter years? I don't know, but it's likely that I will see them again in the very near future.
After all, next Sunday is Father's Day and my father will want to go to church. Okay, daddy bear, I'll be there at 8:45 sharp.
(Postscript: Daddy also took me out for lunch after church. I could totally get used to that !)
Posted by CC
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