What is a Building?
Tears. Slowly building. A catch in my throat. Deep sigh. This because of a building? A building that hasn’t been part of my life for 50 years. You just never know what will matter. It started with an email announcement from my brother that the church building we grew up in has been sold and the congregation is joining with another congregation of the same denomination. I’m not really surprised. We were invited to a ceremony to celebrate the future.
About 10 years ago, I very randomly picked up a copy of the Seattle Times. It was the newspaper delivered to our home all my years growing up. On the rare occasion, I am in Seattle with time to spare (okay, kill), I might pick up the Times. That has happened perhaps 4 or 5 times at the MOST in 50 years. I don’t even remember what I was in Seattle for or why I picked up the paper.
The headline, or at least the featured article, was about University District churches who had been meeting monthly for a while. They were having potlucks and talking about shared resources. Some churches had declining memberships. Some had expensive property in high demand in the U District. I was quite impressed with the whole idea and thought it was a very progressive approach to addressing what they had in common. Our church had been the site of an afterschool Latch Key program for some years, one of the uses of the building which I endorsed. Recently, my former church had begun sharing facilities with the Baptist church using the Chapel and having administrative offices.
As a teenager, our youth groups had had various visits and shared activities with the other churches, if only for the purpose of learning what their religions were about. If I remember, there were Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, United Congregation, maybe a Catholic church, and our church, Disciples of Christ. I remember a high school dance with at least one other church. I had a few friends who attended some of these churches. We went to church Sunday mornings and then back in the evening for CYF (Christian Youth Fellowship).
My mother grew up attending a Disciples church in Seattle. Her mother was a minister of education. Her Grandfather was a minister of this denomination in Montana. (This fact was explained to me as the reason my Grandmother had so many sets of dishes – her dad’s congregation had presented them as wedding gifts. I have two of the sets, which I cherish.) My parents met at this church. They were married in this church. We were baptized in this church. My dad was an Elder and on the Board. My sister was married in this church. We had my mother’s memorial service in this church. I have attended a few other memorial services for friends of my parents in this church. I remember attending a service for an infant child of family friends.
My mother and I did not have the best of relationships (a story for another time). I was growing into adolescence seeing myself as I saw my mother seeing me. I was unhappy. It was not good. But, we had a Youth Minister who saw me. He saw my potential, he saw what I was capable of and slowly built up my confidence. In one simple comment, he changed my view of myself. One comment! We were on a retreat and volunteers were being recruited for various tasks. I was volunteering, raising my hand fast. He simply said, “You don’t have to volunteer for everything, or anything. We like you for you.” Sooo powerful. A turning point in my life. I then began to examine how I got approval and to look at what choices I made. Did I make them because they were important to me? Or was I just hoping that I would be good enough to be liked?
Although we had other activities in our family life, many activities revolved around the church, our friends from church, and longtime friendships that my parents had. When they were at the University of Washington, they attended this church in a young adult group called the 49’ers. They had bridge parties, we went camping, we had BBQ’s. We went to family camps (directed by my Grandma, known as Mommo to many) and youth summer camps at Camp Gwinwood in Lacy, WA. My parents talked about taking me camping on Camano Island my first year of age with the 49’ers. (Turns out it was Cama Beach, a camping facility that I took my school on a camping trip to. My dad came along to the delight of my 9-year-old daughter and he told her about bringing me camping as a baby.) I would have said I was 6 weeks old, but I wonder now, because I thought he didn’t come home from the Korean War until I was 6 months old. Another story for another time.
I had at least one boyfriend from church. I had several big crushes at church. And I had best friends from church. We experimented with drugs (it was the 60’s after all and we WERE in the U District). I had best friends at my high school as well and I have kept some of these friendships all these years. This church community was the center of my life for 18 years.
At 18, I moved away to go to school In Bellingham. Because the church had been so important to me, I of course thought I’d just start attending the Disciples church here. I was hungry for that connection! I went one Sunday morning to the service of the local church. Wow! Was this church part of the same denomination? It was so conservative! I was used to sermons that were thought provoking, but intellectual as well as spiritual. This church was nothing like what I was hoping for.
Fortunately, there was a Campus Christian Ministry at Western. A friend from Seattle who had also come up here suggested we check it out. Fortuitously, I formed a bond with one of the Campus Christian ministers, a Congregational minister. I was a student rep on the Board for a while and got to know more about Bellingham outside of the college community. This minister was moving his family up from California and one day he invited me to go look at a home he was considering buying. That began a friendship that had an impact on the rest of my life, including living with the family as a nanny, meeting teachers in the private school his kids attended. I eventually taught, then became owner of the school.
Our daughter attended the school. My husband joined his men’s group and the wives and the men began having couple’s dinners. One of the women invited our daughter to join a local community choir which began another series of great connections and a serious of fabulous international tours.
So, for me, it is so much more than a building. So much more.