Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Surrounded By Witnesses

A couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege of attending a reunion of former members of South Avondale Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama.  This church, which was established in 1917,  has been a part of my family for years.  My grandparents attended there.  My mother started there as a baby and attended there most of her life.  My father joined the church when he married my mother.  My sister, brother and I all attended South Avondale.  Unfortunately, I had to leave for a different church in 1983 when I moved to a different part of town.  But, I essentially attended the church for about twenty two glorious years. 

Needless to say, it was a big thrill when we gathered in the sanctuary of the church a few weeks ago.  As a matter of fact, I almost started crying as I heard the worship team and band practicing as I entered the facility.  The sights, the sounds of exaltation, and the warm embrace of old friends made it a moment to remember.  In addition, the presence and affection of the new members there (now called Redeemer Community Church) were exhilarating. 

During the service, the pastor mentioned that the original church had buried a time capsule in 1917 and that the new church was going to open the time capsule later this year to reveal its contents.  In the sermon, he even read a letter which was supposedly buried in the time capsule from the first pastor, Reverend Inzer.  It was a sweet, sweet letter from what sounded like a godly shepherd.  Also, if I recall, the letter mentioned "the war" which was occurring at that time (which we now refer to as World War I).  It will be interesting when the time capsule is opened later this year and will give a glimpse of the heart of the congregation at that time.  What were their hopes for future generations?  What was important for them to place in the capsule?   

Finally, after a time of worship, a challenging message and communion, we had lunch outside with the new members and relished the days of old.  

Looking back on this special day brought to mind Hebrews 12:1 which states,  "Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.."  How indebted I am to the witnesses who have propelled me along the way!  The friends who helped developed the foundation of my life, whether it were the old friends I saw a few weeks ago at South Avondale or even the first pastor of the church whom I never met, although he was thinking of me when he penned his letter for the time capsule.  Have I made some mistakes in my life journey since the early days of my life at South Avondale?  Absolutely.  Yet, being embraced by those who continue to love me and pray for me in whatever situation give me the strength to carry on in life, no matter what the tribulation.