Here's The Church, Here's The Steeple, Open The Door

“Here’s the church. Here’s the steeple. Open the doors and see all the people.” Mom gently held my tiny hands and taught me this precious finger rhyme when I was small. At the time we were not churchgoers, but driving around one typical Sunday morning in the backseat of our station wagon, my three year old fingers replayed the actions, and I recited the words alone. What followed next was an honest inquiry directed towards the front seat as to why our clan did not attend church. Family folklore says that question changed the course of our future as we visited our local church the next Sunday. We never left.

We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.

Growing up with liturgical roots offered a priceless gift. God pursued me through the creeds and prayers and a faith community that was rich and deep. Our family forged forever friendships that blaze alive today.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father.

In the teen years, I resisted. I had an authentic encounter with Christ on a retreat and longed to cross the street where each week was not so ‘predictable.’ My friends practiced their Christian faith in a different way, and I ached to join them. I thought that repetition was bad. That ritual equaled spiritual death. My wisely adamant parents stood their ground. We would worship as a family.

Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
and was made man.

In college I tasted freedom, exploring the roots of different Christian trees, and was blessed by each of them. But by 21, I was back where I started. That was the dark year. God surrounded me with strong trees that protected mine from the hurricane-like winds threatening everything I knew. And God grew me deeper than ever before.

For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

At 23, I unfolded a piece of paper and read the list of all that I was praying for in my future husband. Amongst those words was the desire that I would share my faith roots with him. Three months later, I met Rich. One of his first questions to me when he learned of our almost identical stories was an invitation to worship together. I thought he was married, inviting me with his wife and kids. Little did I know, he was waiting for me too.

He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.

We married in a gorgeous cathedral at high noon almost eleven months to the day of that church attendance invitation. During our first years of marriage, we worked in a congregation with different roots. We loved that tree. We learned. We served. We grew. Four years later, living overseas, we were thankful just to be able to attend a Christian church a few times each month.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.

Then seven years ago, the unthinkable happened. I flew back to the USA to visit my sister who suffered a horrific brain hemorrhage. While I was there, she received a hospital visit from a dear friend who was a pastor from our roots. At the time she could only utter one word. As he started to pray the Lord’s Prayer, I watched as she joined him word for word. When the prayer was completed, she could once again utter only that one word. Apparently this is not uncommon for stroke victims as God’s word hides deep in our hearts for times such as this. Repetition does not equal spiritual death. It often grows us stronger.

With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.

Eight months after that hospital encounter, we moved back to America. The first two years, we worshiped with a faithful church community like the one I longed for ‘across the street’ as a teen. And then, God sent us home.

We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.

As I prepare for the beginning of Lent next Wednesday, my heart feels thankful. For our roots. For our stories. For the freedom to worship in places similar to my childhood and different like my friends across the street. I anticipate Lent in a new way this year, thanks in part to a meaningful season of being home amongst trees that feel grounded, strong, and faithful. I am hopeful for what it means for our boys to grow up in this forest.

We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Kourtney Street