When we moved to Frisco, Texas in the fall of 2006, our daughter Riley was almost three years old, and our son Jed was nine months. Our sons Clay and Alex hadn’t been born yet. I was a bit heartbroken when we left St. Louis despite our great opportunities in DFW. The people at First Presbyterian of St. Louis nurtured and cared for us as a young married couple. They’d nicknamed my pregnant belly “Smiley” even before they knew we intended to name her Riley. She was baptized there, attended Session meetings as a tiny infant with Ben and I, and yelled out “DaDa” when Ben assisted with the liturgy during worship.
So, when we moved to Frisco, we started attending Faithbridge Presbyterian immediately. We needed to become a part of a new community. We’d been at Faithbridge for only a few months when the fire alarm sounded loudly in the middle of Sunday morning worship. One of the nursery teachers ran into the sanctuary to assure the congregation that there was no emergency. A child had pulled the fire alarm. When we went back to pick up our children after service, we said, “it wasn’t one of ours that pulled the alarm, was it?” The nursery caregiver informed us that actually it was our kid. Riley had always been tall, and the fire alarm was low on the wall, so she’d given it a try. And that was how we made ourselves at home with our new church family. A family that has embraced and loved us for over fifteen years now. This Sunday, Faithbridge will honor the high school seniors, and this year Riley will be included. In a beautiful tradition, the quilters from our congregation will present each senior with a hand-made quilt as a symbol of support and love. But before they do, I want to express my gratitude for our church.
The people of Faithbridge who’ve taught my kids in Sunday School, on Wednesday nights, at VBS, and on various other occasions explained the Bible stories certainly, but they also poured their compassion, kindness, and creativity into my children. My kids have never doubted that they belong at our church because they’ve always been accepted. They’ve learned about social justice from the pulpit, the classes, and how our church serves others. They know it’s good and appropriate to question, and even challenge, notions about spirituality and religion. They know their voices matter. Over the years, numerous church members have come to Riley’s dance recitals. They didn’t have to, but they did it to show their support for her. My kids experience God’s love from the way the people in this church embrace them, figuratively and literally.
But most importantly, my kids have learned what it means to be in a caring church community. They know that the people in this church will always be in their corner and always have their backs. The church will miss Riley when she’s at college, help support us as we adjust to life with her away at school, and gladly welcome her when she returns home. The people of this church have demonstrated what it means to be the body of Christ in ways too numerous to count.
I pray that my children hold onto the feelings that come from being fully involved in a church community and hope they find the same type of church in their adulthood. We’ve been blessed to find two churches who loved our family well and for that I will be eternally grateful. The people of Faithbridge will celebrate my daughter this Sunday, and I celebrate them for being the epitome of the loving church that God calls us to be.
Tina: All of us at First Pres pray for Riley as she begins a new life chapter. Jack and I miss you all. God bless your entire family. Love always! P.S. would you email or text me your address? We have a graduation gift for Riley. Thanks!