Over the course of Lent my congregation has held a series of programs calledThis Is My Story. Each week of the series a different member of the congregation has shared the story of his or her faith journey. It has been a marvelous set of stories! The storytellers have ranged from a retired naval admiral/orthodontist to an artist and graphic designer.
The last storyteller was a woman in her nineties who was a part of our congregation in its earliest days. Nina and her late husband were instrumental in helping our faith community get off the ground, and were here before our building was even built when we worshipped in community rooms, a country club and the neighboring Episcopalian church. He was a retired pastor--and part of her talk focused around the many duties she took on as a pastor's wife in a day and time when, as she put it, congregations got "two for the price of one." She frequently referred to the ever expanding nature of her faith, as she was exposed first to other Protestants, then to Roman Catholics, then people of color, and in time many other faith expressions as well. She was very active in the ecumenical movement, and played a role in the peace movement in Ireland during the time of "the troubles".
At the beginning of her talk she opened by asking how many of us had learned as children the bedtime prayer that begins, "Now I lay me down to sleep . . . ." A majority of hands went up, including mine. As an adult I have questioned the wisdom of teaching that particular prayer to children. I've heard more than one account of a child being traumatized it as they feared they would die if they fell asleep.
But Nina wasn't just dredging up a childhood memory. "You know," she said, "as I've gotten older I've come to realize what an appropriate prayer it is not so much for children, as for someone of my advanced years." And then she recited it. "Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take." On the lips of a ninety-four year old woman it takes on a whole new meaning, a whole new significance. It becomes a profound statement of faith. Faith built over a lifetime.
Thank you Nina, for all you've done over the years for Christ and Christ's church. Thank you for your inclusive spirit, your faithful heart and your every expanding sense of what it means to be a Christian!