I would drive past that little white clapboard church every morning on my way to work. There was no Fairfax County Parkway then, only a very windy West Ox Road with long stretches of fieldssome with horses. Each day as I turned onto Centreville Road, only two lanes back then, I would glance to my right and smile, thinking, “That’s such a cute church.”
Eventually I found myself planning a wedding and searching for a house closer to work. I also found myself looking for churches. I “shopped” at least five or six near the office, dismissing the little white clapboard church because, surely, there was nothing happening there. I came up empty each time, not finding “it” anywhere. Eventually I found myself entering the doors of that cute little country church, not really sure why but feeling that I needed to give it a try.
I wasn’t in my seat more than a few minutes before there was a tap on my shoulder. “You are in my seat, ” the woman said. My parents had taken me to church when I was little, and I knew people “have their pews” so I scooted over, no offense taken. But as I did so the woman behind me said, “Ellen you can’t say that! This is her first Sunday here. You can’t treat a guest like that!” To which Ellen said, “Oh yes I can, Margaret Ann! That’s my seat! I’ve been sitting in that seat since I was a child.” I quickly jumped in and explained that I completely understood.
After the service they asked me my name and if I lived nearby. They encouraged me to come back next week, and I did. I sat next to Ellen and in front of Margaret Ann and her husband, Ben, from that day forward. They took notice when I wasn’t there and asked each week with sincere interest how I was doing. They welcomed me and loved me. They were Christ to me and God worked in and through them and others at that church to prompt me to step into serving and eventually teaching Sunday school.
The congregation eventually moved to a larger building just up the road. I was sad to leave that cute country church, but I knew it wasn’t about the building. It was about the peoplethe ones who lived around us but were not yet part of us.
In the new building we quickly found “our seats.” Ellen and I sat in front of Margaret Ann and Ben, just like in the first building. It was in that seat that I said “yes” to Disciple Bible Study, leadership in the church, starting a woman’ s Bible study and eventually joining the staff.
I am not who I was that spring morning in 1990. Methodists call what I experienced prevenient grace, God guiding you to discover who God is and how you are uniquely created by God to love and serve others.
I am so thankful for the local church and the people of Floris United Methodist Church, the leadership and the staff. I am grateful that I have been able to travel with them these 25 years. This year Floris UMC celebrates 125 years of ministry in Herndon, Virginia. I am so thankful for a church that welcomed me into the family and helped me walk the journey of a disciple. Happy Birthday, Floris! Here’s to another 125 years!