Today, my church turned 100. My church is old, and it looks old – in one of those grand, “my, isn’t that a beautiful church,” kind of way. Enclosed within its gray stone walls, its red carpeted aisles, and upon its oak pews, I have always assumed that my church has stood here since the “beginning.” But which beginning? The beginning of time? Since the days Jesus walked the earth?
The beginning began to find its place as the church leaders started pulling out photos and stories from its archives, and shared. Once you attach the number 1909 to its origins, you begin to understand that “the beginning” was right before the roaring twenties. You ponder a bit more, and you realize that not too long after ground was broke and the debt was signed, that the Great Depression left its mark. Then, you marvel at how the economy must have shook the great stone walls of my church, it’s members, and its staff, back in the beginning. While not a trace of the financial drama can be seen within the walls of the church today, I’m sure the topic found its way between the lines, and directly within prayers of my church’s founding fathers… and mothers. We always leave those parts out of the past when we reflect; life was always easier, in retrospect.
Today, for the packed centennial service, we headed straight for the balcony. The balcony is our family’s own private retreat; we can always find room there for us on the busiest of church days. There we always have a good view of the choir, the assorted symphony instruments, and the pulpit. We went through the service’s rituals of praying, singing and listening – and then, on cue, I escorted my children to the Sunday School classrooms, where the old chapel was decorated for a birthday party and a 100-piece iced sheet cake bore the words, 100, for the children.
I returned to the sanctuary for the adult portion. More music, more hymns, and more prayer. During the last hymn, I could see coming from the back of the church, a line of little children filling the aisle, marching down to the front alter of the church. I spotted my boys, and perhaps it was the surprise of seeing them here so unexpectedly, but I felt as if I had not seen them for a fortnight, and my eyes began to swell with tears at the joy of seeing their little hands and feet, and the tops of their heads. Or, maybe, I was crying because my mind was already connecting the dots of growing little feet, with the music and the aisle that may someday carry them on their wedding day. I love surprises. I loved this surprise.
The music stopped, and our minister took one look at their faces and said, “Some people say this is the future of our church. But they are wrong; these children are our church.”
Or perhaps the tears flowed because I thought of this 100th day in my church’s history; a milestone that will be honored and repeated 50 years from now. My little boys will be in their 50s or 60s and if they live here, will remember the day they ate birthday cake at church, were only allowed one piece, and then marched down the aisle of the big church, stood at the alter and surprised their parents, who stood looking on from above in the balcony. On that 150th birthday, they will wonder if maybe their parents are watching from above again, from some other place.