We attended the worship service at Mt. Ayr Friends Church this morning, the church in which I was introduced to Jesus Christ as my savior and where, 45 years ago, LeRoy and I were married.
Like me, the building has changed over the years. When I was a child, the sanctuary and the basement under it were the whole church building. Children’s classes were held in the basement, as were fellowship meals. The kitchen was tiny but some really delicious meals were served there. The Mt. Ayr women were great cooks! Upstairs, there were three sets of pews, wide ones in the center and a narrower set on each side. I can’t think about that church without hearing my dad sing. He led the singing every Sunday in his wonderful tenor voice. I don’t remember attending a funeral in that church where the special music wasn’t presented by a quartet that consisted of my parents and my aunt and uncle. Music was and is a big part of that church and our family.
The first major overhaul to the church was the addition of a fellowship hall on the north side. Ours was the first wedding held in the church using that fellowship hall. And there was a center aisle for that occasion! New blond pews were part of this remodel, as well. The new addition was momentous for another reason–it brought the bathrooms inside! The kitchen was much larger, but the food was the same wonderful church dinner fare.
We had been in the building earlier this summer after the sanctuary had been refurbished again. This time, the pews have been replaced by chairs and sound and video equipment have been added. Outside a ramp has been added along with new entry steps and a church sign. The old parsonage of my childhood has been replaced with a modern structure, but the welcome is just the same as always.
For many years, the church was made up of Gregorys, Bales, and Petersons with a few other names thrown in, so everyone knew everyone from generation to generation. When we arrived this morning, the parking area was very full. The sanctuary was mostly full as well, and I was amazed at how many people I didn’t know. I loved the feel of open praise that was raised to God. Praise music was led by a Bales and a Gregory, along with wonderful accompaniment by people whose names and faces I didn’t know. The worship service itself may have changed over the years, but the same God is the object of worship and praise.
As I thought back over the years, I realized that 6 generations of Petersons have worshipped in that church including my cousin’s great-grandchildren. Mt. Ayr will always be special in our lives, no matter where we travel.
Tomorrow we will auction our family farm just a few miles from the church, but I don’t think we’ll cut any ties to the community. New sanctuary or not, we still felt as though we’d come home.