Fellowship Stories

When a group of us gathered for the Strategic Planning Workshop in late September, Katie Kingery-Page led us in a story-telling exercise. Small groups were invited to come up with and share with the whole group stories of the fellowship building that had stuck with people. The most popular story came up a few times – the story of the wedding of Michael Nelson and Charles Dedmon. Michael was my immediate predecessor, serving as part-time minister of this fellowship for ten years. Their wedding was a long awaited joyous occasion. Apparently, every space was filled with happy celebrants – family, friends, and fellowship members. The food excelled, the dancing swept people up. Generations mixed easily inside and outdoors. The building played a character in a jubilant drama, shaping and being shaped by the experience.

I’ve heard a lot of the stories of this congregation in the last year or so. One that struck me particularly deeply is the story of how the fellowship came to reside on Zeandale Road. Some of you reading this know the story much better than I do, and I may get some of the details wrong, but it’s a significant passage to reflect on as we look towards the future in our planning. In the 1980’s only a few committed members were left in the fellowship, meeting then in a house on Bluemont. All the children had grown up, and members wondered if the fellowship would survive.

So they took a great risk. They bought a small building owned by the school district out on Zeandale Road. It needed work if it was to be usable by fall, so members spent the summer with renovations. They planned for including children and took out ads saying they had religious education. By the time fall came and services started, there were still ladders up and the work was almost, but not quite, done. The feeling of excitement raised everyone’s spirit and rubbed off on the new people who came with their children.

At that time, the Alsop Room served as the sanctuary, and the group didn’t yet have so much of the lovely space we enjoy now. That handful of families, though, made possible what we have today. Their vision led them to take risks and to leave a legacy of the safe haven and visible beacon that we still strive to grow into. It’s a story to provide inspiration as we go forward with our strategic planning.

Today’s leadership made a key decision to assess our current site to determine potential for future growth. You’ll hear more about the process and results over the next few months.

In the meantime, in keeping with this month’s theme, I invite you to recognize how our stories play into our understanding of our past, present and future.

In faith and freedom,

Jonalu

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