I have gone to the same church with my parents since I was 4 years old, Bagby Memorial United Methodist Church. From the time we started until I was in highschool we had a wonderful pastor who really is legendary in how much good he was able to do in his tenure at Bagby. When I was in middle school our church hired a Youth minister, who started to bring in kids from all over the community, not just from the families in the church. This started a pattern and a reputation that our church was a welcoming place to highschool students who weren't getting what they wanted out of where they were. They came because they wanted to be there, not because their parents made them.
In time, the pastor moved on to do a bigger job and take care of a whole district and a young pastor and his family came to us. This pastor shared a welcoming spirit and a love for youth with the rest of the church leaders and he has become well loved. Not long after he came to the church a couple that was already well established began to bring some kids from their community with them to church, there were only a few at first but they came from troubled homes and had no idea about the church. Their numbers grew, and grew and are still growing.
Every Sunday there are several rows full of these children. They are wild, and usually somewhat dirty. They don't have parents that actually do what parents should, many come from broken, neglectful and abusive homes. All are low income and have little hope for their futures. However, they are the future, not only of the church, but of the community. This very special church took them in, we throw baby showers for teenage moms and give hugs to children whose parents don't bother to give them a bath often enough. I've seen them come and go, I've heard a little boy talk about how he called 911 because his mommy took too much medicine and she got angry and hit him with a belt. I've held a baby whose mother is only 14 and she has already raised her two younger siblings.
Today I learned that our wonderful, accepting, funny and wise pastor is moving on. Another church needs his care, and someone unknown will be moving into his house and his shoes. This guy will need to have that love and acceptance and that understanding I have seen in the pastors I grew up with, and I truly hope they send someone who not only is what we need, but who also needs us. It is a change, and a scary one, but it will be a good one.