By Jonathan David Faulkner
This is a humor piece, a fluff piece if you will, it is meant to make you laugh, please be gracious with us and all those who might want to discuss its content.
I go to a Congregationalist Church here in Hamilton MA. It is one of the few churches in the area that Seminary Students want to go to, which is unfortunate considering the Seminary is right here in Hamilton and Gordon College is on the other side of town. It is a growing church in the reformed puritan tradition, over 300 years old. George Whitefield preached on the steps there a long, long time ago. They were also responsible for the founding of Ohio University, which I will let you decide if that is a good thing or not.
But being from this tradition they follow the Liturgy which I like, I am liturgical at heart and I like that we say the Creeds and sing the Doxology and sing our responses to prayers. It is a happy mix between the High Church Anglicanism that I am fond of and the low-church Baptist Church I pastored after College. We do Communion, once a month, which I am okay with because how often we do communion is never a hill to die on…unless you never do it…or do it like the Corinthians.
We even say the Lord’s Prayer, which I love cause I was raised Presbyterian and really love saying the Lord’s Prayer. More so these days since I have the tools to study it further and see its beauty…but sometimes I still make mistakes when saying it, like last Sunday:
I was going along, on auto-pilot, after all of the 1,300 Sunday’s in my 25 years I have probably said the Lord’s Prayer on 70% of them. So you know, I’ve got this…until the last line when I started on “Thine be the glory…dang it…dominion and glory forever.”
I had done the unthinkable…I was not sure what to do…this was a puritan church at one point, did they still draw and quarter people? I started looking around for notepads and rolls of quarters. What if the pastor heard me utter the word “Dang” during the Lord’s prayer, does pressing hurt? Can I get some feedback on this? I mean, I was seriously worried. Can a Calvinist still be burned at the stake? I started planning my escape, the thirteen year old next to me snickered, my older sisters roommate leaned over and said “I did not know dang it was in the Lord’s prayer.”
I mean, at this point I have committed heresy right? I should be taken out back and stoned, I messed up the Lord’s Prayer. Maybe I should not have taken that class on Medieval Spirituality, maybe I am going insane. It’s okay, I will be gone next week…I just have to get out of the building that Sunday..
A few moments later I had a chance to redeem myself, the Doxology, nervously clutching my bulletin in hand in case I forgot the words to this too and had to rely on a piece of paper to remember something I should have memorized. And I did, I got it perfectly, even sang the melody because I am a Calvinist and Calvin did not like Harmonizing and I was already facing stoning or stake burning or the fires of Hell…perhaps even Purgatory, I could not mess that up too and I did not. To which I was met with the response by both my sisters roommate and the thirteen year old who had snickered at me saying “You go that one.” Which was good because I do not like the idea of having people draw me and throw quarters at me (that’s how that works right).
In the end it was okay, I asked for forgiveness from the thirteen year old, after all I had failed ot be a good example of how to memorize the Lord’s Prayer and no one threatened to hang me from the big tree in the side yard of the church.
Because I am at the right church, the kind of church that I know loves me and cares for me and is interested in seeing me grow in my Christian Walk. Who wants me there on Sunday and who wants me to be involved on a Sunday. They preach the gospel, show grace, pray for each other and most importantly love God and know that God loves them.
I mean, I did have legitimate fears about stepping down from my pulpit and moving to a whole new town and searching for a new church home. I am a victim of a spiritually/emotionally abusive church, when I arrived here I had been in the same church for 2.5 years before taking my first pastoral position and then I did not have to worry about distrusting the pastor because I was the pastor. I had had to deal with a major church change since I left for college in-spite of leaving the PCUSA church I was attending in favor of an ABC church my friend attended. So when I moved to MA I had to deal with those fears again. Partly because I was adjusting to a new environment and partially (I am sure) because I was still recovering from the concussion.
But, my now mentor, the associate pastor and I talked through things, everything. I even sat down with our senior pastor about it and left that meeting with a lot of peace of mind. I have since joined the church as a full member, a step it took me almost two years to do at my previous church (keep in mind I was only there for 2.5 years).
I joined a church that cared for me as a believer and wanted to see me grow in both the individual relationship with God and grow within the corporate body of the Church. To stretch me and give me wisdom when I needed it and to strengthen my faith through solid preaching and great community, offering no judgement but instead open arms to this man who once hated the church, who could have called himself an enemy of God’s people while still counting himself one….Who God would meet in a far off city and call to Pastoral Ministry and a ministry of renewal and revitalization.
Because, that is how God works, He calms our fears when we are simply resigned to trusting in Him and His design for life. You can trust Him with your life because He is in control and is constantly with you. Abiding with you and dwelling in you. If you can grasp that, maybe not understand it because I know I do not, but grasp that truth it can totally shift your perspective on life. Free you from whatever it is that has been keeping you back and as you learn to just allow God to work in you and through you find the reward is so much greater, if not in this life, the next for sure.
I could have left the church, I could have failed miserably, I could have told God “No” when He called me to the Pastoral Ministry, but instead I chose to follow after Him knowing that He could use my brokenness for something greater, and He has.
Look, I do not pretend to know what you are going through, but the reality is that you are not alone. That God and His people are there for you, just trust that He can bring you where you need to be, that He can heal the scars from your past and suddenly little old ladies with notepads or teenagers holding quarter rolls seem a lot less intimidating (cause, that’s how that works right?)
Jonathan David Faulkner is a student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, a Pastor, Musician and Writer. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree inChristian Education & Administration with a concentration in Urban Ministry