Our church is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year. Yep, we’ve been around since 1857. We’re inviting former pastors (those still living of course) to speak. To kick off our celebration which began on the last Sunday in January, Dr. Rand Forder preached. Rand was pastor about 20-years ago, and is well-liked by our folks.
I wasn’t there because I was at my DMin seminar at Fuller, but got good reports from folks about the day. Good attendance, great food (we always have great food), and a lot of reminiscing. Scott posted the video of the service on our website, so I watched it the other day.
Rand is a personable guy who loved the people when he was here, so naturally he started off with some stories. Stories about folks coming by the church, and stories about members who have gone on to glory. The last story he told was about the time they handled a snake at Chatham Baptist Church. Before you start thinking of signs-and- wonders, seems like the snake crawled out of the ferns that had been brought in from Frances Wharton’s house to decorate the platform for communion. During communion, Carlton Morton, who was a deacon, saw the snake slither out of the fern and across the carpet right in front of him. The deacons at our church sit on the front row to serve communion, so Carlton just put his foot on the snake and held it there for the entire service. He told Rand later that if he’d let his foot off the snake, “we’d had to call the rescue squad to Chatham Baptist Church.”
Now that’s a funny story, especially if you know our church and style. We are not anywhere close to being snakehandlers.
As I watched the video on my computer, I could hear the congregation laughing and chuckling as Rand told his stories. Churches need to tell and hear their stories more. Not their histories, but their stories. The stories of saints, and some not-so-saints, gone on to glory. The times they shared together in joy or in sorrow. The times the church was the church.
We pastors forget that stories are important. That’s what the Bible is — stories of God with his people. Jurgen Moltmann says the Bible is “the book of remembered hopes.” I like that. Memories from the past give us hope for the future. This year at Chatham Baptist Church we’re telling stories, and I’m listening.