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  • Writer's pictureKelly Marks

St. Francis

We live in a different world today. You often hear people say that when they are talking about: the old days, the price of groceries or gas, and especially what we can and cannot do now because crime rates have gone up. And it’s true.

When I was little, my folks lived on 8 acres out in the country. In the mornings my mom would make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and put it in a bandana and literally tie it to the end of the stick. I took off into the woods, either with a friend or alone, promising to be back for dinner.

Because Paul and I live on the corner of a very busy street, we never let Madi play outside unless we were out there too. We had heard too many stories of someone in a windowless van taking kids from their own front yards as they played.

We are/were vigilant parents. Some might call it overprotective. Potato/potaaaahto.

That’s why it was so unusual that when I started attending St. Francis UMC, I let Madi run around the church grounds without knowing where she was. First of all, she was with the other kids; second, she was in a safe place, but most importantly, every single other adult on the church grounds would be watching out for her, the same way I was looking out for the other kids.

The people of St. Francis take the term “church family“ to heart. I was raised Baptist, and because I came to Methodism late, Madi was not baptized as an infant. When she went through confirmation at St. Francis in 6th grade, she made the choice to be baptized through immersion, which our church is not equipped to handle. So on a Sunday afternoon, half the congregation traveled across town to another church to witness her baptism and support us.

St. Francis is the first place Madi ever played her clarinet in public. When she graduated high school in the middle of Covid, the people of St. Francis put together a parade of cars decorated with signs and balloons and rode by our house honking and waving and shouting congratulations.

When Madi was getting ready to leave for a semester abroad, I was a wreck. At church the Sunday before she left, they of course played the most poignant music and I cried. When I cried, Madi cried; when she cried, her friend Emma cried; when Emma cried, Emma’s mom, Andy, cried. It was very similar to seeing someone yawn and you have to yawn yourself. But St Francis hugged us and helped us stay focused on the fun of it all, the adventure.

Every Sunday I’ve been to church since Madi‘s been gone, they all ask me how she’s doing, where she is and when she’s coming home. They follow her on Facebook. They sent her birthday cards to England. They text and email her. Just like a family will do.

Before Covid we, as a family of believers, loved each other, but we were busy. We were on the go. And we still are. Sometimes I think maybe we’re even busier, but there’s a difference now. We realize, I think as a church family, what we have, and we know it’s precious. Covid made us see what we miss when we’re not together: just how much we love each other, how much we value our church family, and how much God has blessed us with the gift of each other.

And all of God's people said amen.

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