Memories and Sacred Spaces

When I was 14 years old, I became a member of the First Baptist Church of Rhodhiss, N.C.

I was baptized by immersion into the chilly waters of the small metal pool that had welcomed thousands of people before me into Christian communion. As the pastor quoted scripture, I caught a glimpse of rust stains around the drain at the bottom of the pool. An oil painting of a river bank covered the wall behind me. It had once been the pride of the Sanctuary. Only a faint glimmer of its former exuberance remained. The artist’s work was faded and cracked. Years of dust had accumulated on the thickest brush strokes, and the canvas was peeling on all four corners. The state of the painting, and the whole baptismal array, dismayed many. For me, it revealed the tattered elegance of a space worn out by faithful service.

The sacred spaces of BMPC are not “tattered,” but they do hold memories — memories of formative relationships, celebrations of life and death, faithful worship and new beginnings. They also carry imprints of pain, loss, frustration and disappointment. Our spaces do not make us who we are as a community of faith, but they remind us of who we have been and make visible God’s dreams for what we could be.

This September, our eighth graders, who call BMPC their spiritual home, will begin their journey toward an affirmation of the baptismal covenant. In confirmation, they will discern whether or not God is calling them to become a part of the story that is Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church. They will add their experiences to the collective memory of our congregation, and they may even find ways of claiming this space as their own.

Some of you already know one or more of this year’s confirmands, while others may not. Either way, all of us can hold the young people of our church in prayer. If you know someone who is going through Confirmation, I invite you to connect with them in a new way this year. If you do not, I hope you will find time to offer prayers for discernment, thanksgiving and celebration on behalf of the youth who are about to set out on this new stage of their spiritual journey.