September 15, 1999

Memories of a home church
___The church I grew up in recently hosted a 40th anniversary celebration with an emphasis on a homecoming for former members. Since Mark and I couldn't attend, we decided to have our own homecoming by reflecting on the good memories we have of that church.
___Sandia Baptist Church in Albuquerque, N.M., was home to me for my first 23 years of life. When I start recalling the faces and many names (well, OK, some names) of people who influenced my life and Christian walk, the numbers are astounding. These were just everyday people who cared enough and took the job of the church seriously enough to shape my life.
___More than anything specific I learned at church, I recall most of all the influence of these lives on mine.
___My first youth minister, Mrs. Evans, a parent volunteer who stepped in as a long-time interim, touched me as a new Christian and helped me start on the right path. Many of the parents and youth workers still are in my heart just because they were there with us through retreats, parties and mission trips.
___Carl and Penny Allen sacrificed their time to teach our college singles class. I don't remember what we studied, but I remember them, because they were always available and opened their home to all of us, even though they both worked full time and had two kids. Beth Riggins, the singles director, touched Mark and me just as she has countless others over the years.
___And Harold Walker. Harold was our music minister for many years. He taught me how music and ministry can work together for powerful worship. He also made it fun. I don't remember many rehearsals (except maybe the final rehearsals before big presentations) where he didn't make us laugh about something. His chuckle is still fresh in my mind after 14 years. I was in ensembles, youth choir and adult choir under his leadership and will never forget him or his wife, Beth.
___Things change. We change. Many of the people I remember are no longer at Sandia, and some special folks are still there fighting the good fight of the faith. But church home in my mind is still the group of people who were there as my church family.
___If every person had the kind of church experience we knew once upon a time at Sandia Baptist Church, I don't think anyone would drop out of church.
___I realize times change and people change and churches change. But sometimes (hopefully at least once in a lifetime) you
connect with a Camelot moment in a church's life and in your own life that helps your roots of faith sink deep, nourishing you for years to come.
___Maybe it's because this was the church where Alison grew up. Or maybe it was because this was where we met and married. Or maybe it was because we had an excellent pastor (Darrel Rains, who now serves Casa View Baptist Church in Dallas). Or maybe it's because we were young and less cynical than we've grown to be today.
___Maybe all these things played a role. But the older I grow, the more I'm convinced we simply were fortunate enough corporately to experience the presence of God in a way we unwittingly took for granted. If you've ever had this kind of experience, you'll readily know what I mean.
___Some days, I long to go back. In my head, I still can hear the invitation hymn we were singing the night I joined that church as a college junior. That proved to be one of the best and most important decisions of my life.
___But in reality, I have to admit I'm not the same person I was 17 years ago, and neither is the church. And that's probably for the best.
___It sure helps, though, to know that God has been our help in ages past. With that confidence, we can be assured God remains our hope for years to come.

He Said/She Said is a new regular feature of the Baptist Standard's on-line edition. Mark Wingfield is managing editor of the Standard. Alison Wingfield is a freelance writer. The Wingfields moved to Texas in January from Louisville, Ky., where Mark had been editor of the Western Recorder, in which this column appeared weekly.

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