POD #25: Lost (and found) arts
As much as I would love to come up with some profound lost art, when I think of lost arts, I immediately think of a conversation I overheard with a man living in poverty. He was a man who once had a promising future in the executive world, and then based on poor personal choices, found himself begging for help to make ends meet twenty years later. We were sitting in a church looking at a picture of their first congregation standing on the footsteps of their original building. It was a black and white photo, full of elderly people dressed in their Sunday best with stern faces.
He commented about how those were real Christians, who said what they meant and meant what they said. Those were people who when they told you they would be there for you, would give you the shirt of their back if needed or bring you meals for a month because you were ill. He went on to say that now people say they will be there, but if you go knocking they won’t answer the door and phone calls are ignored. It broke my heart.
I look back on my childhood and think about how my life was impacted by the elders in the church – and by that I mean anyone older than fifteen because I stopped going to church when I was thirteen. We went to the largest church in our community. It ran thirteen large school buses for Sunday morning, Wednesday night, and vacation Bible school. Yet most everyone knew everyone by name.
My thoughts are overwhelmed with the people who poured into my life, and the life of my family – that I still remember by name. And when I run into them in the community, not having attended that church for over twenty-seven years, once they know my name, can still tell me the name of my parents. They frequently tell stories that I have long forgotten from my childhood. Many are upwards of seventy, some even in thier late 90s.
There was Mr. Drewry he treated me like the sun and moon set with my friendly hello and precious smile. They yongest of five kids I often felt ignored. He was always the first one I would search out when I got to church, I would plop down in the pew in front of him and turn around on my knees to talk to him and he listened ever so intently to my ramblings. Seeing him three decades later, he and his wife still remembered me.
Mr. Nolan, he drove me crazy as a pre-teen because he insisted that we be quiet during service. By that time, I mostly went to church for the socialization, but he was faithful to sit with us and do his best to keep us quiet. One day he said something that stuck with me. He told me I never know who is being distracted in the rows around me by behavior. He told me that could be the one chance they gave for God to speak to their life, but I was too busy whispering to my friends for the person to pay attention to what God was speaking through the pastor. I didn’t appreciate the message then, but I sure do now. I still hear him when I hear others talking during worship or preaching.
Mrs. Cunningham and Mrs. Levine were teachers in my Sunday school classes when I was pretty young. They taught me about memorizing God’s Word. Even though I didn’t know it at the time, those scriptures would carry me through some pretty tough times as an adult. Both women were both so encouraging to me. They helped me pull on the truth they had planted decades later when I found myself a young, divorced mother in need of guidance. I wasn’t part of their church, or even a part of their life until our paths crossed one day while I was at work. You never know where God will bring that connection.
I could talk about Ron and Jackie – some of the Children Church leaders, or Mr. Floyd or Mr. Bryant who ran the bus ministry in our neighborhood, Brother Bobby – our children’s pastor, Brother Dale our pastor, Doug, Kenny, Brent, and Jimmy – older teenagers who took the time for a bratty little kids, The Coffees, The Kennedy, the Meltons, and Dana – other members in our church. They were people who walked our family though some difficult times. I remember being at their houses, and I remember them being at ours. We did life together. They knew me. They knew my family. They knew our struggles and they walked along side us through them. Not because they were asked to, but because they cared enough to be invovled.
Someone in the church always reached out if we missed service. We got a personal postcard that they missed us and knew we were not there. We often got an in person visit if we missed. They helped with meals when someone was sick. Someone, and often multiple people visited if a family member was in the hospital. The drivers in the bus ministry made a personal visit to every single house on Saturday before running the route on Sunday.
The lost art in the world, that I would love to find its way back into society is people really being there for each other – especially in the Churc. When Church wasn’t filled with blood family, but family by the Blood, When fellowship meant more than just congregating in the foyer before and after service and over a Sunday potluck. When the Church wasn’t a building you went to on Sunday and Wednesday but the people who made up the congregation. When people paid attention to others around them well enough to know by the look on a face when something is wrong and just reach out in concern.
I haven’t seen that is so long. Yes, it was easy when I attended small churches for a few years. When you have a congregation of fifty it is easy to know everyone’s name. It is easy to see who is missing. Small communities know when someone is in the hospital or sick and a drive across town is a small task. Its easy to do life together when you need a weekend babysitter and you only know a few people in the small town.
We have filled our days with meetings and activities, and somehow miss the people. As we move more and more to online communications and social media, we lose more connections. Churches may be growing in number, and outreach may be enormous, but relationship is lacking. People don’t know what is going on with others. Names an faces are easily forgotten. Needs go unnoticed. People fade away, and no one ever knows.
I wish I knew how to bring this lost art back. I am not always good at doing my own part. I want it in my life, but I don’t know how to see it created. Making connections with others seems so much harder now. People are suffice to know about you, rather than to know you. Social media creates a façade of relationship that is severely lacking in connection.
I want the Church to be a community that all people feel connected, loved, valued, and needed. I want the Church to be a community that reaches out to hurting both within the community and in the world. I want the Church to be a community that sees need and meets it, sees people and builds true relationships. I want a community that sees the lost and loves on them until they are found.