|“Love each other like the members of your family. Be the best at showing honor to each other.” Romas 12:10 CEB
I visited Bethel member Betty Shuler several times before her passing this week. However, due to her declining health and hearing loss, we were never able to have in-depth conversations. I read to her from the New Testament she kept beside her bed. I told her stories of my three children and what was going on at the church. I enjoyed her sweet smile and held her hand while we prayed.
Only now as I am preparing for her funeral, am I realizing how little I actually knew about Betty. I needed to call someone in our church family who could fill me in on the details of Betty’s life.
(Yes, that person was Lucy Gordon. God Bless Her!!)
I wonder if you, like me, have ever realized that you have known someone for a long time and yet know very little about them?? I can think of many church members like this:
I know their family’s names and address;
which board or committee on which they serve;
that they are committed to peace, justice, and to so many other things that matter to me personally….
and yet I still don’t really know that much about them.
I don’t know what experiences in their lives helped to shape them into the person who joins me in worship each week. We may have had casual conversations but often we don’t take the time to talk about the things that would really help us get to know each other.
So often at church, we don’t share our stories. We don’t get below surface level conversation while chatting before a meeting or walking between Sunday School and worship. We have to intentionally make space for these conversations. My friends, unless we realize the importance the role of sharing our stories plays in deepening relationships, it’s easy to look back and say we missed important opportunities to build stronger relationships in our faith community.
This week I have been wondering how we might be changed if we knew even a little of the history and stories of our church family? I think of the people who are new to Bethel and how easy it is for us to assume that they just “know” this or that about our congregation, church history, or the United Methodist Church. When actually they don’t. How would they? How could they? There’s no place to learn it; there’s been no real intentionality about telling our stories as members: why we came to Bethel and why we’ve stayed. I wonder what difference it might make to know more about who we are as individuals and as the Family of God at Bethel United Methodist? What are our stories? What has shaped us? Starting this Sunday in worship, we are going to hear stories from our staff and church members about why they are a part of Bethel Methodist Columbia.
Will hearing one person’s story erase the loneliness and separation we feel? No. But perhaps it can be a beginning. Maybe it will plant a seed about how important it is to take time to tell our stories; to hear each other’s stories. Will knowing your story make me more appreciative of who you are? Will knowing your story begin to tear down walls and bridge divides? I pray these worship videos will help us feel a greater sense of connection to one another during our time of physical separation.
Pastor Julie Belman