by John C. Westervelt
My mother’s father was a Presbyterian minister in Baird, Texas during the first decade of the 1900s. In 1910 he completed a red brick church with stained glass windows in this small railroad town. I visited this church in 1993. I found on the outside wall a brass plaque that read “Texas Historical Site.”
As a preacher’s daughter, my mother took my brother, my sister, and me to Sunday School at the First Presbyterian Church in downtown Oklahoma City. I was not old enough to start kindergarten, but old enough to remember the day I looked out the window, and our car was no longer parked in the driveway. No one explained to me that the country was in the midst of the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Determined to have her children in Sunday School, Mother took us downtown on the street car. Making connections was difficult. Before the year was out, Mother left the church of her girlhood and joined Wesley Methodist church, which was two blocks from our house.
I began my journey of listening to Bible stories in the primary department (first through third grades) at Wesley. Long before I arrived and long after I left the junior department (fourth through sixth grades), Mr. Gibbons was Junior Department Superintendent. He rewarded each child that had perfect attendance for the year with a gold pin, and I wore mine proudly. A little old lady (may have been fifty) asked each boy in my class to memorize a verse from the first chapter of Psalms until we could quote the chapter. This chapter is familiar to me to this day.
By the time I reached high school, all my friends came on Sunday night for Methodist Youth Fellowship. The Wesley MYF became the center of my religious and social life.
During the 1990s, my brother and his wife, my widowed sister, a couple from Kansas, a couple from Vermont, and I vacationed together on six occasions. With the exception of two spouses, all of us were Wesley MYF buddies. So it seemed natural when the engineer from Kansas named us the “Wesley Eight.”
A lifetime of friendship had seasoned my relationships with the Wesley Eight. By now our children were on their own, and our working careers were winding down. It was a time for contemplation. What had we made of life’s journey, and where would our last years take us?
I remember sitting on the Village Green in a small town in Vermont, on a bench beside Lake Chautauqua, New York, and on a rock beside the Grand Canyon. On each of these occasions, I shared my inmost feelings with one of the Wesley Eight. I had not experienced sharing at such depths before. To this day, my body warms with these remembrances.
I am grateful that my mother sacrificed to keep me in Sunday School, so I could enjoy the lifetime of blessings that have followed.
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