I really wasn’t planning on going this year. Other things had come up, and I just didn’t feel like making it back for homecoming. But then I heard the voice and decided to go. Okay, I didn’t actually hear a voice, but it seemed like it.
“You are coming to homecoming, aren’t you?” Every year Pa would make sure to remind my sister and I that homecoming at Bethabara Church was coming up. It was understood that we were expected to be there on the fourth Sunday in October. And even though my father passed away over four years ago, I still hear the question. You know, it was one of those questions that’s really a command, like, “You are going to take out the trash, aren’t you?” So, last Sunday, Terri and I headed back up to Clement to Bethabara United Methodist Church for another homecoming. And now I’m glad I did.
Homecomings have always been a tradition, especially in rural churches. It’s a time, usually in the Fall, when the church family comes back home to the church of their youth. You get to see old friends and relatives, and eat some good food at the homecoming lunch. It’s a great way to get back in touch with your roots.
Those roots go deep, even before the current church was built. When I was a child, Bethabara was a little white, wooden church with a couple of oak trees surrounding it. We kids would play ball and tag out in front, where the current church now stands. (By the way, the old church was moved and is still being used by a congregation a few miles away on Butler Road.)
It was good to see the folks there. I enjoyed the songs of the choir. Once again, Tony Peacock, a master storyteller, had the children’s lesson. Rev. Dorothy Rudd delivered the sermon. Mrs. Rudd, now retired, was pastor at Bethabara for several years, and has been a dear friend of our family. Her sermon highlighted the importance of the church family. She shared a story that emphasized her point. I asked her could I use it in this column. Here it is:
A little boy, five years old, was just beginning to recognize the fact that animals, and even humans, must one day die. But he was unsure how to handle this new realization. One day, while in the kitchen with his mother, he asked, “Mommy, what would I do if you died, daddy died, and my big brother died?”
His mother was not prepared for such a question and she replied, “Well, son, I don’t know. What do you think you would do?”
The little boy thought for a moment, and then said, “Well, I guess I would just get on my tricycle and ride down to the church.”
It’s a simple, cute story, but with an important message. Mrs. Rudd used the story to illustrate the point that even a little five year old can know that the church can be there for someone in their time of need. But, sadly, many people today, young and old, have forgotten that. Well, the truth is they have simply forgotten about the church.
Many people today think that being a part of a church is unnecessary and not that important. They feel that there are so many other activities that they can be involved in besides attending church. Besides, why do I need the people at the church when I have two or three hundred “friends” on Facebook? But, how many of those “friends” are going to be there for you during difficult times, during that deep, dark hour of sadness? And what will they have to offer you?
Besides the obvious, very important spiritual reasons, there are many practical benefits from being a part of a church fellowship. From the positive activities and friendships developed as a youth; all the way to receiving comfort in those final days of old age, it’s there. Or can be there for you. (Remember, you only get out what you put in.)
During the service last Sunday, Bethabara’s current pastor, Hank Dunbar, commented on how many young children were in the congregation. Looking around, I had thought the same thing. Hopefully, roots in church are being dug in their young lives. Because, with the future I feel they are facing, those roots will be more important than ever.