Our family’s faith story began almost twenty years ago, not long before we got engaged. I grew up Roman Catholic. Whitney’s family didn’t go to church. But we knew that we would someday want to raise our children in a community of faith. Whitney had gone to preschool at the First United Methodist Church in her home town of Ann Arbor, Michigan, so she suggested that we give you Methodists a try. (Proof that Methodist preschools have a lasting, multigenerational impact, even for families not currently in the church.)
At the time, I was living in Addison and working in McKinney. Depending on which way I drove to work, I would pass Arapaho United Methodist Church. One Sunday in January 2000, we showed up for the 11am worship service and it immediately felt like home. In the new member class, we learned about the Methodist emphasis on grace. We learned about the roots of the Methodist movement – intentional spiritual development in small groups; a passion for acts of mercy and justice; an emphasis on faith lived in love and service to the world. We joined Arapaho on Thanksgiving weekend that year, began volunteering with the youth group shortly thereafter, and our lives have never been the same.
I heard my call to ordained ministry while we were at Arapaho, but that’s just one part of our family’s story. We’ve served three different churches – Arapaho, First UMC Henrietta and First UMC Sherman – and in all three, our children have been taught the theology and values that led us to join a United Methodist congregation in the first place. There is much more that we love about the United Methodist Church than we can say here. But it centers around what we learned in that new member class almost twenty years ago.
We wanted to raise our family in a tradition that emphasizes the grace embodied in the life, ministry, death, and Resurrection of Jesus. We were looking for a church that would emphasize ongoing Christian spiritual growth, what the founder of Methodism, John Wesley, called “going on to perfection.” We wanted our kids to grow up learning that an essential part of our life with God is to participate with God in acts of compassion and justice in a world that desperately needs both. These are the values that we want our church family to help us live and instill in our kids.
We couldn’t be more excited about joining a church that lives these values each day.
Rev. Chris Dowd