Remembering where I come from

My faith story began long ago at Cooleemee United Methodist Church, located at the southern tip of Davie County just north of Salisbury.

The front of Cooleemee UMC, now home to The Bridge @ 197 Main, a ministry of Smith Grove UMC

Technically, the merger of the Evangelical United Brethren Church and Methodist Church had not yet occurred when I was born. But all I can recall from my earliest church memories surround the United Methodist Church. Maybe some of you born in the 1960s can relate?

#BeUMC celebrates the connectional system and asks the question: Why am I United Methodist? I suppose the answer for me could be, “I was born into it!” At Cooleemee, my great-grandfather built the pulpit. The organ was dedicated in memory of my grandfather (who sang bass in the choir). My parents held various leadership positions, and I had my first experience of publicly speaking the word of God during the annual Christmas program.

This small, mill-town church was the setting for transformational points in my life, beginning with my infant baptism through my call into ordained ministry as a young twenty-something. It was the place where Debbi and I married approximately 29 years ago.

A memorial plaque for my grandfather, R.R. Everhardt

The preceding is a “simple answer” for why I am United Methodist. Plainly and simply, as a child I was guided toward the United Methodist Church without much thought or input on my behalf. It was what I was supposed to do because of my family heritage along with the expectations of my parents. I really didn’t know anything else or consider other possibilities, although many of my closest childhood friends were Baptist.

Besides, my maternal grandmother thought if you weren’t of a particular political party affiliation (you decide which one) and United Methodist, you were going to hell! Today, as an adult and in my 28th year of ordained ministry, I remain United Methodist.

Leading a youth retreat at YMCA’s Camp Hanes

There is no such thing as a perfect Christian; likewise, there is no such thing as a perfect Church. As my father used to say, “If you want to find something wrong, you’ll find it. Remember, there’s always something good to be found.” So, rather than focus on our imperfections, I choose to focus on the ways the United Methodist Church encourages us to move on to perfection:

As I write, I am imagining your faith story. Maybe, like me, you were born into the United Methodist Church. Maybe you made a choice somewhere along the way. Maybe that choice is taking you down a different path. I imagine there are common threads within our shared stories. And many common goals yet to be experienced.

As we move forward on our different, yet similar journeys, may we be mindful that God’s love, forgiveness, and respect for one another must prevail if we are to truly be God’s representatives in the world.

In Christ,

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