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My family grew up going to the big cathedral in our hometown of Columbia, SC. We had been there for generations. And, as lovely as it was, it was one of those churches where children were “shushed”, and families were to remain as quiet as possible.

So when we had our first daughter and were attending The Falls Church, we kept with the tradition that church was meant to be a serious, solemn place where everyone had quiet reflective experiences. Then, one Super Bowl Sunday as we were leaving, Julie broke out her organ into Lady Gaga (who was doing the big halftime show), and I realized this was not the same type of church! I started to notice the other families with small children, and how included they were in the services. Once, when I was lay reader, my then 3-year-old asked to come up with me. As we were walking, she ran straight into the Baptismal font, knocked her head, and of course, screamed the entire way through our reading. I even put the microphone down and just tried to project over her. At the end of it all, instead of stunned silence, the church erupted in applause as I ran off the altar to Children’s Chapel, where my daughter immediately started to laugh. 

Should church be a reflective and solemn place? Yes. Absolutely, it has its place for that. However, I am so grateful to have found a place that I imagine reflects the life and sermons that Jesus led, where families were scattered, and children ran to Jesus and interrupted his talks. Or where King David played joyful music following the Tabernacle. I’d like to say they were all smiling as Julie played “Baby Shark” a few Sundays ago (another reason I think the Nationals won!). 

We are so glad to have found a place that will help us raise our children to know and love God, in all of life and its craziness, that God created. My daughter knows that Sundays are church days, and while I’m not sure if she’s more excited to see her friends, or have “church snacks”, she knows that The Falls Church is a place that welcomes her and loves her. And I think that’s what The Falls Church stands for most of all. A place where we very take very seriously our sign out front that says “All Welcome.” And for us, that is why we are proud members of The Falls Church Episcopal.

~ Ellen Pinson

Paul and I had been attending classes and worshipping at The Falls Church Episcopal before we were married in 1984. Fast forward ten years and there were five of us attending on Sundays. All were involved - teaching Sunday school, singing in choirs, serving as an acolyte, member of the Vestry, etc. We socialized with people and did our part but if we had slowly stopped attending, few would have noticed. In 2006 there was a remarkable transition and we found our voices with the few who decided to remain with the Episcopal Church.

With small numbers it was truly all crew, no passengers. I found myself volunteering for things I might never have tried and eventually found my inner leader. When we gathered on Sunday mornings, it was a party. With so few, we knew each other well and passing the Peace became a time to reconnect with those we loved. Although we had always been regular attenders, we now came wholeheartedly and with new purpose. These were our people! It was the infectious generosity and welcome that attracted new members and they were brought into our tight community. We all gave generously, in part because we were needed, and the need was visible.

Then there were more transitions. We lost our priest, the one who helped us in our wanderings. We asked the assistant to stay and she did, getting us through the rough spots with her gifts and amazing spirit. We moved back to the church building, feeling tiny in the huge space but also feeling needed. We continue to show up and stick together and call a new rector. John came to us as we fixed our neglected buildings and, in the process, helped us grow to where we are today. And now another transition.

Reflecting back on all these changes, patterns emerge. In the times of upheaval there was visible need and we all love to be needed and noticed. There were times when we stood up for what was right, holding steadfast to the church that nourished us and contributing beyond what we thought we could. It was talent and time and treasure that were needed in all of these transitions; that is what we gave and continue to give. We have been richly rewarded in each and every one of these situations. We are part of the body of Christ, the body of the church which is its people. 

Now, as we begin another transition, we have faith that the right person will come to walk along side us. It is up to us to join the great throng, to contribute what we can and then some, to discover new talents and realize we are needed. And, I have no doubt, we will again be richly rewarded.

~Debby Miller

For our Annual Giving Campaign, I was asked to reflect on why The Falls Church has been a grounding force in our life. Answering this question helps us reflect on why we are grateful for our church and God, and, in turn, how we want to respond to that gratitude with a gift back to the church in the form of a monetary pledge for 2020. 

The Falls Church brings me and my family closer to God and closer to what really matters. The theme for this year’s Annual Giving campaign just makes sense: “Give Thanks for the Sure Foundation." It’s not just a theme. It’s truly a way of living and lens through which we see the world. Being a parishioner of this church helps me, more than anything else, keep my eye on the ball so to speak. 

Despite being in a time of clergy transition, we, the people of The Falls Church, have built a place where we regularly seek God and meaningful relationships with each other. We are not perfect, but we try. And we learn together. To quote the phrase I have heard so often “our church is not a hotel for saints, but a hospital for sinners.” We teach love and forgiveness and hope. What a gift our church is to each of us, our families, and our community.  

This is deeply personal for me. As my children grow, I know they see that life can be messy, people can hurt each other’s feelings (sometimes deeply), and the headlines of our news often bombard them with messages of a world that can be unjust and hateful. But our church shows them a different model.  

Coming to our church shows my children that there is hope, that we strive to “love they neighbor as thyself,” to be deeply connected to each other, to radically welcome the stranger and to tend for those in need. Our church is also a group of people who have become a home for our family - to celebrate with when we are happy and to confide in when we need support. I am grateful that, in a world that is constantly moving too fast, we have a place where people truly care about our family. More importantly, I give thanks for the Sure Foundation of God, who my children are coming to know as they age and for whom I am grateful is at the heart of all that I say, do and give.  

As they grow, I want my children to know that society will tell them that happiness lies with many things that they can buy or hold in their hands, but this place, our church, will tell them the exact opposite; we can spend our time, our money, and our efforts striving for various “things” but the only one that will truly fill us is God.  

And in giving a pledge out of that thankfulness for God, we are free to feel an abundance that cannot be found with the latest gadget, care, toy, or clothes. Instead we will feel joy in rejoicing for the gifts we have been given.  

I hope you join me in thinking about and talking with others about why our church is a grounding force in your life and also join my family in a making a pledge.

~Katherine Secrist

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