Saturday, May 26, 2012

Celebrating 25 Years of Ministry

It is Memorial Day Weekend.  It is a time to barbeque outside and make homemade ice cream. Most importantly it is a time to show respect for those who gave the ultimate sacrifice in military service. I hope we have not lost sight of that purpose.  This particular Memorial Day is unique for me.

I interviewed for my first ministry role with a church 25 years ago this weekend.  The Tenth and Broad Church of Christ in Wichita Falls, Texas invited me to interview with them for a university ministry role during Memorial Day Weekend in 1987.  The job included directing a religious student center on campus and teaching religion courses as an adjunct instructor at Midwestern State University.
It was a great job opportunity for a 25 year old that just finished his graduate level degree!

I did not know prior to the interview about an agreement the search committee had made among themselves. They were determined not to hire someone right out of graduate school for that position. I am not sure to this day why I was even granted an interview.  Things clicked from the very beginning.

The church felt like home immediately.  I recall a man telling a search committee member in front of us that I was “the best candidate yet” as we walked down the hallway after church services.  I wondered what kind of nut this guy was at the time?  He was a pretty good nut. We have been friends for 25 years now.

During Memorial Day weekend of 1987 I had no clue that the people interviewing me would celebrate the births of two of my boys a few years later. They took care of us when I spent a week in the hospital following an accident.  I didn’t know that they would mourn with us following a miscarriage. And I had no inkling how supportive a church could be until they walked with me during the final months of my mother’s life in 1991.

I ended up spending just over 8 years with this wonderful group of people. I learned so much. They were incredibly patient as I made mistakes.  They loved on me in ways that I will never to be put in words.  The way I was treated there shaped my entire career.  After 25 years, I still draw on what I learned from the wonderful people in Wichita Falls.

I am not barbequing today. I may not have time to prepare homemade ice cream. Those events can wait until another weekend.  I am officiating at a funeral this afternoon. I know how to prepare for funerals, and how to serve families during times of grief.  I learned those skills from some fine people that are still a part of the ministry team and membership at the Tenth and Broad Church of Christ in Wichita Falls, Texas 25 years later.  Today I am grateful that a search committee chose to reverse their initial decision and take a chance on a young kid right out of graduate school.  Their kind choice is still impacting me 25 years later to the day!  

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