Yesterday, I mentioned that 2011 brought a few firsts in my life. I also mentioned that another first would happen today, and here's what happened: Tammy, Reese, Will, Hannah, and I were all baptised together as a family and individually as Christians.
After being members of the Duluth First United Methodist Church for around a year now, Tammy and I decided the time was right to express our faith through baptism. As one of the sacraments given to the church by Jesus Christ, baptism is an essential to salvation for Methodists, though people are not saved by baptism alone.
Growing Up Outside the Church
I grew up outside the church with a few connections on the inside. My grandparents would take us from time to time. A couple friends across the street would bring us along a couple times while we were in elementary school. I remember going to Sunday school and then sneaking off to get candy at a nearby gas station.
As I grew older, I only seemed to move even further from God. I remember having conversations in which I argued against the possibility of God in high school. In college, I seemed to only find more ammunition in my campaign against God and Christianity in particular. I remember even thinking that organized religions were the same as faceless corporations that are riddled with greed and corruption.
Then Something Changed
My first wife has grandparents who are members of the Methodist church in Southwest Ohio. I can say with certainty that Ann and Freeman James of Lindenwald United Methodist Church played an important role in my faith journey. In fact, they still do.
They encouraged me to get out to church and invited me to attend an Alpha Course program with them that lasted 3 months. I took this course in early 2003, so it took these early seeds--when my mind and heart was open--to make me question my worldviews over the next eight years.
Or maybe I should say that even with these early seeds, it took me more than eight years to get where I am today.
So What Happened After That Course?
Within two years of taking the course, my first wife and I separated (with the intention of getting divorced), I found myself in significant debt, and I had to move into my father's house. Plus, I felt like a horrible father (because of the impending divorce) and a failure in many ways.
It's times like these that you really have to dig deep into yourself, and I found myself starting to write poetry with abandon--in a way I had not since my college days. I started running and filling my spare time with work. There were days that I felt like the world was going to end, and there were days that felt like they had unlimited potential. I was all over the place.
Around three years after the separation, Tammy and I started getting involved. Much like myself, she'd grown up around but not exactly in the Baptist church. Neither of us had been baptised or attended with any regularity.
Then Things Got Serious
Actually, that's an inside joke between Tammy and I, but we did get serious enough to meet each other in Ohio (where I lived) and Georgia (where she lived)--and Tennessee (where my grandma lives). When we met in Tennessee, we went to my grandma's little Baptist church next to the lake, and we've been there a few times since.
When we decided to get married on 8/8/08, we asked my grandma's boyfriend to marry us (and last year, he married my brother David and my sister-in-law) in Tennessee. He had a talk with us before and after the ceremony about the faith element involved in marriage, and I think that meant a lot to both of us.
|Will dressed for his baptism.|
So over the next couple years, Tammy and I talked about checking out a church, but it's scary. Especially for me, I almost felt like it was too late for me to join a church, because I wasn't baptised. Though part of my brain knew this was wrong, another part just felt like I had to be raised in the church to be a part of the church.
Duluth First United Methodist Church
I first started going to DFUMC on Monday nights--not for church, but for Cub Scouts. Last year, Reese started Cub Scouts, and I volunteered to be the den leader for Den 2 of Pack 420. I'm on my second year now, and it's been a fun experience. But it was this initial involvement with the church building that eventually prompted Tammy and I to try attending a few services.
It didn't take long for Tammy and I to decide that we liked the atmosphere, the people, and the leaders of DFUMC. One thing I appreciate about the Methodist church in general is that it's very open and inclusive. This church in particular seemed (and still seems) even more so. So we joined the church last December.
|Hannah excited for her baptism too!|
Since we've been members, we've continued with Cub Scouts; we took a United Methodism 101 course that helped us learn more about the history, beliefs, and structure of the Methodist church; we enrolled Will in a Christian Beginnings preschool class (which he loves!); and this morning, we were baptised!
We've had a great year of growth as a family and as Christians, and we intend to continue our development together as a family. Baptism is only one rung in the ladder, but it's an important enough one that I felt it was worth sharing.
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