When I close my eyes, I can picture myself walking down the aisle and slipping into the pew. My hands brush against the familiar green velvet cushion as I tuck my dress around my dangling legs. My feet don’t quite reach the wooden floors yet, but they are getting closer each week. Rich, warm notes from the pipe organ fill the sanctuary as members of the congregation drift in from their Sunday School classes. Soon the prelude ends and the minister of music stands. Instinctually, my hand reaches for the hymnal resting in its cradle in front of me, and I turn to hymn #15:
“Come, Thou Fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace
Streams of mercy, never ceasing
Call for songs of loudest praise.”
This church, a focal point on main street in my small Southern hometown, was as much a character in my upbringing as it was a setting. I found myself walking in its doors as easily and often, it seemed, as I did the doors of my own home. Within its red-brick and stained-glass façade, I was received into a living-breathing body that claimed me as one of its own—a member of the family. The church taught me and trained me; it censured me and celebrated me; it raised me and then it released me.
When time came for me to go to college, I left home…and I left Home. It was an uprooting, for I had belonged to this church for nearly eighteen years. This disturbance was intensified when I soon learned of an upheaval within the church that was profoundly affecting my parents. When I pictured the beloved red-brick and stained-glass façade in my mind’s eye, I felt bewildered and betrayed. Maybe Home wasn’t as safe as I believed?
Despite these events, my heart felt homeless without the church. Most Sundays I would visit one of the many churches situated near the college I attended. I would slip into a pew, reach for the familiar hymnal, and sing the words without looking at the page:
“Teach me some melodious sonnet
Sung by flaming tongues above
Praise the mount, I’m fixed upon it
Mount of Thy redeeming love.”
Soon after Tim and I married, we joined a church located near the university we attended. This decision was significant, as it was our first “adult” decision as husband-and-wife. We were members, happily settling into our new church home. At the end of each Sunday service, the congregation would clasp hands along the pews and across the aisles and sing the chorus of “Because He Lives.” Tim and I would look warmly at each other as we connected with our church family.
Then, one Sunday the pastor didn’t return to his seat after concluding the sermon. The pianist didn’t strike the familiar opening notes of the chorus, and the congregation didn’t stand. Tim and I sat perplexed as the pastor stood there silently. When he finally spoke, he announced that this was his final Sunday serving as the pastor of our church. He resigned, and then he walked out. I don’t recall the details of what he said, and I don’t remember whether we joined hands and sang before we left, but I wondered—Maybe Home wasn’t as secure as I believed?
Regardless of the unsettling answer, my heart continued to long for a home—a place where we could belong—and so with every move, we joined churches that would become our spiritual family. Within the living-breathing body of Christ, we raised our sons, grew in knowledge of the Word, explored our gifts, volunteered our time, invested in relationships, launched ministries, and stepped into leadership.
We also learned that the church transcends any single red-brick, stained-glass façade. This revelation provided hope over the years when church politics, marginalized members, fallen leaders, and various disappointments raised the question—Maybe Home wasn’t as important as I believed?
It’s this hope that I’m holding onto now as we find ourselves in a time of transition after sixteen years in our church.
My heart aches—more accurately, grieves—as it feels homeless once again, and God meets me here.
In His kindness, He reveals that He is my heart’s true home; He assures me that I still belong to His body; and He reminds me of His faithfulness and constancy through the years. He has provided many times before, and He will do so again. A tune begins to stir, and I sing the familiar words as I dream of coming home:
“Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Hither by Thy help I’m come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.”
A lover of story, Susan Tucker has always been captivated by beautiful writing. She is drawn to themes of tension, joy/grief, hope/loss, freedom/shame, which she explores in her own writing. Susan spends her days teaching middle school English, mothering her two teenage sons, and loving her husband of 25 years. She cherishes her first cup of coffee each morning, moments of quiet and solitude, restorative yoga, worship music, and faithful friends.nbsp