While still single, long before seminary and before I became aware of the meaning of that awesome Negro Spiritual, "I know the Lord Laid His Hands on Me", I was far from home one Easter morning and followed the sound of bells to a little country church.
When I arrived people hastened to make me welcome, seated me, handed me a songbook already open to the proper page. When it was time I was handed the Prayer Book, the 1928 edition, since it was in the 50's and long before our present 1979 edition. The building had the smell of most old churches - worn hymnals, pews, carpeting, coffee from countless suppers. Familiar, so familiar...the fellowship, the organ, the choir coming down the aisle and the fervor of their Alleluia's all reminded me that I was no longer a stranger. Rather, as if I had come home to something lost.
Several months ago I made a visit from Columbus, NC to Gastonia. Long after seminary, long after I knew that the Lord had laid his hands on me and a few years after retirement, I was eager to visit churches that I had heard about but never had the opportunity. With GPS in hand and the knowledge of the service times, I set out for All Saints. When I arrived I was greeted by clergy and acolytes who were standing outside and I just knew that they were waiting for me, calling me by my first name. No, I did not hear the bells ringing, but I knew they were waiting for me.
It is so true that we only have one chance to make a first impression. All Saints made that impression in such a positive way that when my schedule allowed I was back at the front door. From such a positive first step I had no problem saying yes to Fr. Gary when he asked if I would consider being his supply while he was on sabbatical. I just knew that I would be coming into a loving parish who would welcome my wife and I.
My heartfelt thanks to Fr. Gary, the vestry and members of the family of All Saints for extending the invitation to be with you for thirteen weeks. It is my prayer that during my stay with you that I will be the blessing that our Lord has called me to be. PEACE!
All Saints Messenger >