Posted tagged ‘First Baptist Church of Lansing’

Christmas Off-Key

December 10, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                      December 10, 2017

                                     

Our three children still remember the car ride on Christmas Day morning. We were coming over Rosemont Hill in Portsmouth, Ohio, heading towards my parents’ house upriver in Ironton. It was pre-satellite radio, pre-CD, pre iTunes days! We had to listen to…The Radio! AM no less!

Carol found a church choir trying to sing! The song was “What Child Is This?” and one man with a rather loud voice stood out as we listened in pain. He always came in about a half note too late. One important line in the song goes “This, this is Christ the King!” This man’s first “this” straddled the end of the same word everyone else was singing, and the beginning of its repeat right after. He used it as a conjunction where there was not suppose to be one.

To this day we bring up that song and choir, and…yes…we mock the moment as we relive it and impersonate it.

Christmas is known for all of its music, Handel’s Messiah, Christmas CD’s, Christmas carolers. In the midst of all the peace-filled music there will always be some shrieks, screeches, and voices that can’t quite get to those high notes.

We still have memories of our son, David, singing with the kids of First Baptist Church in Mason, Michigan, and David covering his left ear because Luke Wandell kept singing the same note over and over again loudly to his left. Luke was totally unaware of the pain he was inflicting. It goes down in the Wolfe family humorous memories section.

The church I grew up in, First Baptist Church of Ironton, always did a Christmas Cantata. The choir practiced in preparation for it numerous evenings, but no amount of practice could cure one lady whose voice could also have been used to frighten burglars away and keep mosquitoes from nesting. We all prayed for laryngitis to afflict her, but God did not answer our prayers. We hoped there would be male solos during the cantata to give our ears time to heal before the next onslaught!

Christmas, however, was about celebration and decorations, no matter how off-key the musicians were. Having someone sing “O Holy Night” while the congregation lit candles at the Christmas Eve service…that is a tradition that still resonates in my soul. Nate and Alyssa Price playing their string instruments as Jean Price accompanied them on the piano…Wow! Singing with my two daughters and one of my son-in-laws on Christmas Eve, I’ll always cherish that!

Christmas has its off-key moments that simply sound off in between long periods of sweet harmony. The times when we look for the ear plugs are simply like receiving one of those gifts that our young child wrapped, a jumbled mass of paper with a roll of tape to hold it together. We received it, cherished it, and filed the memory of it within our minds for the rest of our life.

Hand Me Down Life

November 19, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                      November 19, 2017

                                

Yesterday the freshmen boys basketball team I coach had their team picture day. The varsity and junior varsity squads also had their pictures taken. A few of the varsity players were looking at the uniforms that the freshmen were wearing and remembered that they had worn those same uniforms two years before when they were playing junior varsity. If a former player three years older than them had been there he could have said that he remembered wearing the same uniforms when he was on the varsity.

Hand me downs. The freshmen uniforms for this year had been handed down through the years. The life of a freshman basketball player is saturated with “hand me downs!”

Being the youngest of three meant that a good part of what I had growing up had been handed down to me. Thank God that I was always the original wearer of my underwear…Towncraft “tightie whities” from J.C. Penney’s. Most everything else had been worn or used by my brother or sister. My bike had the dings and dents from two previous people learning how to ride it. My baseball glove was about as big as the rest of my body because Charlie had used it, and was still using it.

Some of my toys were hand me downs. The plastic cups I drank from had my siblings teeth marks on them. Most of my tee shirts and coats had my brother’s body scent still attached. It was a day when garments lasted longer, not necessarily because they were better made, but because they had to endure.

At some point in my life, however, the purpose of the hand me downs shifted. Several books that are a part of my personal library had been handed down to me by Dr. Floyd Norton while I was the Assistant Pastor of the First Baptist Church in Lansing, Michigan. Floyd was a fan of Elton Trueblood and believed his writings would benefit my calling as a pastor.

And then there was the hand me down wisdom and learnings that Chuck Landon, senior pastor of that church, passed on to me. Things to do and not do, how to work with boards and committees, effective visits to some of the elderly folk, how to plan a sermon…all these and more he passed on to me.

In our journey most of us become thankful for what was passed on to us, and, after we realize the value, we long for the day that we can pass on our hand me downs to others. A couple of years ago I passed on to Bill Hale the portable communion set that Rev. Elmer Boyd’s widow had handed down to me. Bill was entering a late-in-life career as a pastor. And the clerical robe that Dr. Ben Dickerson’s widow, Alice, had passed on to me I in turn passed on to Rev. Rich Blanchette as he entered the ministry.

We go from being blessed to being the blesser, and whereas I wasn’t that keen on having my brother’s sweatshirts relocated to my dresser drawers I was especially thankful for the gifts from some saints that encouraged me to press on.

Elton Trueblood still has a section in my library, but Rich and Bill have received a number of other books from me to assist them in the fulfillment of their calling. Some day I’m sure they will do the same. The older I get the more precious are the things passed on to me.

Sitting In The Back Row

January 4, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                            January 3, 2016

                                        

     Today I was a guest at the church that my head basketball coach and her husband are a part of…first Sunday as a visitor…first Sunday not as a pastor. It was the first Sunday that I’ve sat in the back row of a sanctuary…watching.

My head coach, Kasey, and her husband, Vance, are of the Church of Christ (non-instrumental) persuasion. It was interesting to worship in a different setting. The Church of Christ is a little different than American Baptist. Or…the Church of Christ would say that American Baptists are a little different than the Church of Christ. Let’s face it! We’re all different!

Greg, the preacher, (Kasey and I will have to have a conversation about why the term “pastor” isn’t to be used!) shared his heart for the community his congregation is located in. He sounded like me, except with a deeper voice and beard. The emphasis in my ministry was very much about the community, constantly irritating the congregation with the question “Why are we located here in this community?” and the even more irritating question “If we weren’t here would people notice?”

That emphasis dates back to when I was the Associate Pastor at First Baptist Church of Lansing, Michigan, located a block from the state capital. Chuck Landon, Senior Pastor, was an exceptional leader who saw the need to do ministry in the center city area. He was the only caucasian pastor invited to be a part of the gathering of African-American pastors. That didn’t come because he won a lottery drawing, but rather as a result of years of developing relationships with the pastors of that group. A young woman in the congregation had a vision for a neighborhood summer outreach program and Chuck encouraged her and supported her in the launching of S.O.A.R. (Summer Outdoor Activities and Recreation).

Bottom line! He modeled a church ministry aimed at the community. Preacher Greg spoke of that this morning, and it was good to hear of that desire to lead a church into being the helping hands of the community.

Today may have been the first Sunday in years that I was a receiver of communion as opposed to the presider of communion. Church of Christ grape juice tastes the same as Baptist grape juice. The bread, however, was a little different, but still qualified.

Church of Christ children make just as much noise as Baptist kids…and nobody seemed to mind! The smell of coffee, to be served after the service, drifted by my nostrils and through the sanctuary.

Being a guest makes you see things, appreciate what you’re experiencing, and drawn you towards the One you’ll urged others to worship all these years.

The first Sunday of a new journey…that is a little scary, and yet good…I think!