Memories Old and New
by John C. Westervelt
Nelda and I moved to Tulsa in 1955 and joined University Methodist church. A year later, Paul was born, and in 1958 Mary Kim arrived. University church nurtured my family for fifteen years. The newlyweds that formed our Wedding Ring Sunday school class are now dispersed, but remain good friends. Paul and Mary Kim were christened in University’s sanctuary with its walls of native stone carried from a quarry east of Tulsa.
In 1970, Nelda and I sat in Bill Mason’s office questioning whether we should leave dear friends at University to give our children a better opportunity to attend MYF (Methodist Youth Fellowship) at Asbury, just a mile from our house. Bill only listened, trusting the Holy Spirit to direct us.
Despite some tears, the Holy Spirit nudged us to move our membership to Asbury. I sensed that old memories would remain and new memories would be forthcoming. Right away, Nelda and I felt called to sponsor the ninth grade MYF. This calling lasted until Mary Kim graduated from high school six years later.
My mother was a lifelong schoolteacher in Oklahoma City. For most teachers there is no memorial thanking them for devoting their lives to nurturing children. When Mother died in 1972, a growing Asbury was preparing to sell bonds to build a sanctuary. Family and friends paid for the Ruth-Naomi stained glass window as a memorial to my mother. The window selection was appropriate because my mother’s name was Ruth, and she had a servant’s heart just like the biblical Ruth.
Sandy Parks would go home from kindergarten, take off her dress, put on her jeans, and come to my house to play with Paul. By first grade, boys weren’t supposed to like girls, so the visits stopped. In the ninth grade MYF that all changed. Once again, Paul and Sandy became best friends. Seven years later, in 1977, Bill Mason conducted the wedding ceremony for Paul and Sandy in the sanctuary filled with Asbury friends in the happiest of circumstances.
Ten years later, in 1987, under sad circumstances, Bill Mason conducted a memorial service for Nelda. The sanctuary was filled with Asbury friends. They lifted some of my load of grieving by grieving with me.
A year later, when my granddaughter Amy was three years old, God changed the course of my life. My friend Jean Hackler said, "John, we are desperate for Sunday school teachers for the children for the summer months. Will you help in Amy’s class?"
Over the ensuing fifteen years, I have felt a child-like joy being with the children. At first, I helped with children on Sunday during the summer. Then upon retiring from an engineering career eight years ago, I began helping with three-year-olds in the church’s weekday preschool. Today I help with threes on Tuesdays and Thursdays and with five-year-olds on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings.
A few weeks after arriving at Asbury in 1970, Nelda and I joined a start-up Sunday school class that chose the name JOY. This name stands for Jesus, Others, and Yourself--in that order. Today, almost half the class is widowed, but the friendships have only deepened.
It’s February 2004, and I take a final walk through Asbury. In the sanctuary I stop in front of the Ruth-Naomi stained glass window. The winter sun hangs in the south bathing me in blue yellow, purple, gold, and green. A greater than life-size Ruth stands holding a sheaf of grain. Naomi, with darker flesh tones than her daughter-in-law, stands beside Ruth with her hand lovingly resting on Ruth’s shoulder. A small plaque reads, "In Memory of Ruth Westervelt."
As I walk through the children’s area, I am reminded of having walked these halls thousands of times before and receiving a thousand hugs. As I pass Jan Weinheimer’s office, I think, "In many ways, I am who I am because of Jan and the Asbury Tidings."
On February 29th I shall move from Asbury on south Sheridan to Asbury on south Mingo. This will be a joyful move because my adult friends and the children will move with me. Even the stained glass window will be moved to the new chapel.
Asbury’s cross standing high above the steeple will reach out to all those in the community who are seeking to know God. They will not be turned away by "no parking available." They will gather in the foyer outside the sanctuary without bumping into each other. Whether choosing a traditional or contemporary service, all will worship together with a live Tom Harrison. No child or youth will be turned away for lack of room.
In 1970, I sensed that old memories would remain and new memories would be forthcoming, and that happened. In 2004 there is more than a sensing, there is an assurance that glorious new memories will be forthcoming.Return to Table of Contents