Guest post by Rev. Dr. Chris Carter, Christ Church Pastor

“And you shall remember the Lord your God…” (Deuteronomy 8:18) 

“And you shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there by His mighty hand and by His outstretched arm…” (Deuteronomy 5:15) 

We all have that deep need from time to time to enter that still room within us where the past lives on as a part of the present, where the dead are alive again, where we are most alive ourselves to turnings and to where our journeys have brought us. The name of the room is Remember -– the room where with patience, with charity, with quietness of heart, we remember consciously to remember the lives we have lived.

Frederick Buechner

The gravest danger for God’s people is forgetting their story: who they are and whose they are. Moses reminds every generation of the faithful to remember, to pay deliberate attention to who God is and what God has done. This year of pandemic is also the 65th anniversary of Christ Church. God has worked and been present among us since 1955. Together, we have much to remember! 

Although we began with 600 charter members, only 11 remain with us on earth:

Virginia Boone, Jane Fransiola Browndyke, Tom Campbell, David L. Grant, Virginia Hollon, David L. Kelley, Pat Kelsey, John A. Montgomery, Barbara Ogles, Edward R. Richmond and Andrew A. Sippel Jr. 

We honor these 11 and that cloud of witnesses who have gone before us (Hebrews 12:1); so many names and faces that cause our hearts to sing and soar with praise. To jog our memories in the coming year, we will feature a story of the month for as long as you can remember and are willing to tell! So please get me your stories! Send to chrisc@christchurchmemphis.org.

Our first story is shared by Roy and Mary Ann Thurmond, a delightful couple who have been members of Christ Church for more than 50 years. I know you will enjoy! 

Roy:
I moved to Memphis with my first wife Alice and son Clay in 1964. We joined Christ Church and the Lamplighter class. Our daughter, Lauren, was born in 1965. In 1967 Alice passed away, being the first Lamplighter loss. The class took me and my two children on as a “project” and stayed by my side through that hard time. They raised memorial funds to purchase one of the two tall stained glass windows in the back of the Sanctuary facing Poplar Avenue. In 1968 when I met and married Mary Ann, the church and Sunday school class took her on as a new daughter in Christ. These two incidences sealed my “connection” to Christ Church and kept me here for these 56 years.

I have enjoyed participating in service projects at the church:

–I helped build Christ Church’s first Habitat house for Charles Hall (who was on our maintenance staff); 30 years later I helped with a restoration project on the same house.

–I enjoyed working with Dick Klenz on what we called Christ’s Carpenters. That led to the start of SOS (Service Over Self), which Dick was heavily involved with for many years.

–I have loved ushering. Ushers at first passed around the round trays that held the communion elements.

–I enjoyed other projects: Reelfoot Rural Ministries, painting the Salvation Army headquarters on Summer Avenue, repairing houses with SOS, Christ Feeds, baking cookies for Kairos Prison Ministry (yes, I did that, not Mary Ann), working Vacation Bible School and many others.

Mary Ann:
The greatest gift Roy Thurmond gave me, besides asking me to marry him (after 3 ½ weeks of dating!), was to bring me to Christ Church where I was made family. Our first date was a Lamplighter bridge party, then to watch Roy pitch a Lamplighter softball game and always to worship every Sunday morning and Sunday night. (We used to have those services then.) Three years later we added daughter Debbie to our family. The many “clouds of witnesses” were there for us, ministering in times of trouble and sharing deep and rich friendships. This wonderful church has always had the vision of proclaiming the Gospel first, with visionary leadership in missions and outreach. 

So many privileges and ways to serve God have been made possible through the Lamplighter class and the church: being active in UMW and Bible studies, teaching precious elementary children for several years, helping clean up following a tornado in Nashville, working Christ Feeds, helping paint the Salvation Army classrooms on Summer Avenue, raising money for clean water wells, the MYF supper with food from biblical recipes — where the meat was barbecue goat! 

I remember being a part of the outdoor tent revival in what’s now the Poplar entrance space and Cy’s field. Cars honked as they passed by. And it was a privilege to see Corrie ten Boom visit our Sanctuary and hear her deep, but quiet, voice. It was also a privilege to stand in the pulpit with our youngest child, taking a turn to read aloud a portion of the Bible during the 24/7 “Biblethon” over a weekend. Youth spent the night sleeping on the pews and reading in the gaps when no one else signed up. The last chapter of Revelation was read from the pulpit in the Sunday morning service. 

One meaningful project was to be chosen to needlepoint the “Holy Spirit” kneeler for the Sanctuary. Many a time I’ve knelt there at our always open altar, praising God, finding solace at time of need — thanking Him for His presence in my life and in the lives of those who walk through our doors. 

One of the most meaningful places to see God at work has been serving on the Funeral Guild, to share that experience and walk alongside with those who have lost loved ones. 

And who can forget the Christmas Eve services where the world finally stood still, where a darkened Sanctuary with only one candle glowing was enough to chase away the darkness as His light was shared. Thank God for the great host of witnesses who have gone before us, demonstrating God’s goodness through the dark places and through the lens of the coming future in the home He has prepared for us. As the last chapter of Revelation states, “Come, Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all.” God is good. Praise Him! Amen!

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