The following reflection was originally given as a part of evening worship during Baptist Youth Camp by recent high school graduate, Addison Schmitt. As part of camp, various campers offer their “Interpretation” of how the day’s scripture and theme intersect with their lives and experience. This year’s camp theme was Sabbath. Addison refers to “Sabbath Groups”, which are age-divided Bible study small groups. She also refers to Binkley, Pullen, and Glendale which are the names of other congregations who participate in camp. While the message was specific to the camp experience and audience, Addison also shared it with our congregation as part of our Sunday worship. And now, we share it with you:
Two topics that were discussed today in our Sabbath Groups were one, whether sabbath needed a distinct time and place or whether it should permeate our daily lives. And, two, what is the role of community in sabbath. I had never really spent much time thinking about these things. I mean, for the past eighteen years sabbath/worship happened for me at 10:30AM in the same place every Sunday.
Well, last year in June our congregation voted to sell the building we have worshiped in since 1916 (or 100 years). There were many reasons, the major ones being the financial burden and the fact that our congregation is now much smaller than it was in our past. A building where I am fourth generation. My great-grandparents were founding members, my grandmother and her siblings were raised there, my grandmother was married there, my parents met and married there, and so on. I met this decision with a mix of emotions but also an understanding of the situation and its eventual consequences. To say the least, it was a humbling experience.
As our congregation and I struggled to process this decision the question of, “Well, is our church defined by a building or the people in it?” became Sunday small talk. This does not seem like that hard of a question because if one had asked me this two years ago I would have said, “Of course it’s the people that make the church!” However, change is hard. Especially after one hundred years. I did not realize how much a brick structure meant to me until I was faced with no longer having it.
Over the past year, as we have continued to gather, our sabbath as a congregation has been disrupted. While we sing and listen to amazing sermons, the thoughts of who was going to stay after and label pictures, or go through old cassette tapes of sermons, or plow through countless records was on many of our minds. For me and my fellow GPBC members on the Future Ministry Leadership Team, the main question was, “Where are we going to go? What can we present to these people that will make our transition time easier?” And, quite honestly for me it was, “Where can we go that will make these people want to stay with our church?” Our duties as lay people were piling up in a really depressing way. It’s hard to envision the future while packing things away.
However, the one thing that kept us going, coming on Sunday mornings, and throughout the week to pitch in was each other. It continually amazes me how our community has poured life sustaining hope into such a time of grief and loss for all of us. It has helped me realize that I find sabbath in community because sometimes community is all we have.
Imagine leaving this mountain and returning to Binkley, Pullen, Glendale, and so on, and it being your last worship in that familiar space while moving boxes wait in various rooms and halls. Well, we at Ginter Park will face this reality on July 16th at our final worship in our current building that we will close on in August.
Slowly we are realizing that Ginter Park Baptsit Church is not 1200 Wilmington Avenue, but it is Mandy, Kendal, Wendy, Annie Mae, Dixon, Katerine, Shannon, Melisssa, Paul, Tracy, Asa, and many more.
I’ll end with my favorite Barbara Brown Taylor quote which has guided me through this transition. “Salvation happens every time someone with a key uses it to unlock a door he could have locked instead.”
We could have locked that door and disbanded as a congregation, but we didn’t. The sabbath of community saved us and the community of Baptist Youth Camp and your home churches can do the same.