Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mothers Day!

One of the things I enjoy about my local church (Westney Heights Baptist Church) is how it destroys stereotypes of what conservative Evangelical churches are supposed to be like. As I travel around, I am amazed at what many people think conservative Baptists are like. We are supposed to be male-dominated, right-wing, angry, self-centered, unconcerned about the poor and oppressive toward women. It is true that our church does not believe in ordaining women, but everything you might think follows from that simply doesn't. Sometimes real life is more complicated than the stereotypes and theoretical assumptions about what must or must not be the case about people, given their conservative beliefs.

Today was Mothers Day and our pastor did some interesting things that don't usually happen in the service. First, we had a baby/family dedication. We had a typical couple with two children and then we had a woman and her two children with no husband in sight. Her husband wouldn't be caught dead in church, but this mom's mother and grandmother were there. So what does the pastor say? Usually he gives a little talk about the importance of the father, the importance of the mother and the importance of the congregation in bringing up this child. But with a father missing, wouldn't that make this mother feel bad? Yet, fathers are crucially important. He didn't miss a beat, but spoke of a study he read about recently (one of those social science catches up to common sense stories) in which it was determined that what a father says at the dinner table does more than any other single action to determine a child's attitude toward God. So where did that leave the "spiritually single" mom? The rest of the service was the answer.

First, the congregation stood and in prayer commited to helping raise these two babies.

Then it was time for the announcements and the pastor said that although the Jr. High SS class would be handing out carnations to every woman 18 years and older in the service on the way out, he had carnations to hand out to 8 special women. First, he called up the four Jamaican ladies who have been preparing communion in our church every month for 15 years to apologize to them. This was supposed to be communion Sunday, but he switched it to next Sunday, while mistakenly forgetting to tell the ladies. So the pastor wanted to say "Sorry" in front of the whole congregation. It was really a way the whole church could recognize and show appreciation for four faithful servants who labour behind the scenes on behalf of all. We clapped when they forgave Pastor Jack and those who know the inside story know they would all walk through fire for their beloved pastor.

Then, the pastor read a newpaper article from the local paper this week that informed us that Durham region (the four city area in which we are located) has the highest rate of teen pregnancy in all of Ontario, with half of those pregnancies ending in abortion. He told us this is a scandal and that it is our calling as members of this church and citizens of this area to get involved in doing something positive to reverse this trend. Then he called up four women to receive a carnation who exemplified ways in which we could do it.

First was Margie T., who has been a home missionary with Youth Unlimited working with single moms and also with prostitutes for many years. She is heavily supported by our church in the budget, with prayer, by volunteers etc.

Second was my wife Bonnie, who serves on our local Pregnancy Help Center Board of Directors. Various people in our church volunteer at the Center and we support it in our budget.

Third was Sherri F., who does emergency foster care for children who are removed from
situations where the parent(s) can not properly care for them. She was not there because this was the day she was giving up little D. who she has been caring for during the past year. He was underweight and developmentally delayed when she got him and now he is almost at the normal physical and developmental benchmarks. To give him up now, knowing that he may not be going into an uncertain situation, was heart wrenching for her and her husband.

Fourth, the pastor called up Shane, a developmentally challenged man in his twenties who has been adopted by M., a woman who has fostered about 40 children - all of whom had mental or physical disabilities. She in not getting out to church anymore, but the pastor asked Shane to take it to his mom and he was glad to do so. Shane sings in our choir and loves everyone in our church.

By this time, there were only a few dry eyes left in the place. We realized that there were really some saints among us showing us the way to ministry through pain.

But the pastor was not through yet. After a wonderful old spiritual sung by a young black girl during the offering, the pastor introduced the speaker for the morning. Cheryl R. is our unpaid Director of Children's Ministry. She is also an Acting Captain in the Toronto Fire Services and as a single woman has the time and calling to direct our extensive and excellent children's ministry. She spoke on passing on a spiritual legacy to our children. One of the things we have recently done to enhance our ministry is to train our workers and organize ourselves to do Christian Education with special needs children. We had parents staying home because they couldn't bring a ADHD or autistic child to SS. Now we have workers who give one-on-one attention to such children and they are integreated into our regular SS program. We have parents sitting in Church and SS who never got to go before and we have children who are too difficult for the local public schools to handle singing in our Kidds Choir and honestly looking quite literally like angelic "choir boys." (The Kidds Choir musical last weekend was a major production and a huge success.)

Cheryl R. is like a mother to the children of our church and with her organizational skills she matches up boys with men and girls with grandmother types and the body literally helps parent children, especially those without fathers. One such boy just became the assistant lawn mower driver because a man in our church who takes Ja. 1:27 literally has taken him under his wing.

It was just another Mothers Day at Westney Heights Baptist Church. The Gospel was preached and exemplified. We were encouraged to keep on doing the work of loving people one at a time - pregnant teens, special needs kids, fatherless boys, and parents of young children. We can't reduce the overall pregnancy rate in Durham Region all by ourselves. But we can swim upstream rather than drifting downstream like dead fish. And motherhood was exhalted, women were shown respect and appreciation by men and the body of Christ was reminded of its responsibility to parent together all the children in our church - even the ones the world says are unimportant or difficult. We were reminded that, although we all have a physical mother, in reality the church is our mother too. Thank God.

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