Monday, January 27, 2014

Midway Christian Church has 50 'ministers' and three speakers to celebrate Laity Sunday

Story and photos by Erin Grigson
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Walking into Midway Christian Church on Laity Sunday, most people would have had trouble distinguishing the congregation from the preacher.

Since 2010, on the last Sunday of January, every person who walked through the doors, young and old, has been adorned with a stole, a strip of cloth worn around the neck, signifying him or her as a minister in the church.

“It’s a celebration of the fact that we’re all called ministers in the church, that God blessed us with gifts, each one different,” the Rev. Heather McColl said in an interview. “This is the time that we lift up our call to serve God’s church with the gift that God has given us.”

For the service, the pastor asks three members of the congregation to share their testimonies with the church.

“It’s very rare that church people get a chance to tell their side of the story or their faith journey,” McColl said. “You interact with these people every Sunday, but you really don’t know their background.”

One of the first Sundays Sheri Adkins, left, ever attended Midway Christian was for the laity service. As she spoke at the most recent one, she teared up, reminiscing about how much closer she feels to the lay people after they speak at the service.

“I see God in this church,” Adkins said.

She went on to say that she sees God shining through her children, Blake and Alex, and through every person in the congregation. She said that God’s light was like a flickering candle in each of them and as they came closer together, the brightness just increased in intensity.

Wanda Alford was raised in a Christian home. Her father’s family was Baptist, her mother’s family was Pentecostal and she first attended a Church of the Nazarene. At the age of 12, she was baptized alongside her father.

“I never had the crisis of faith that some had,” Alford told the congregation. “I went to college, was involved in the Baptist Student Union and heard a woman speak at a convention I attended. She said ‘Everyone owes one summer of their life to God.’ I couldn’t get this out of my mind.”

She then proceeded to serve as a summer missionary in Fort Worth, Tex.

“It was a frightening experience at times,” she recalled. “It made me appreciate what people give up for the ministry, how much of their life is actually occupied with others.”

Though she has had struggles in her life, Alford said, her faith never faltered.

“I have gone through trying times in my life,” she said, “but I have never doubted the existence of God.”

Like Alford, John Askew said he grew up surrounded by a supportive church family.

“I didn’t feel like I had a particularly interesting or important story,” he told the congregation. “If I had to sum it up into one word, it would probably be ‘family.’”

From left, Alford, Askew, Adkins and Rev. McColl wait at the
back of the church to greet members as they leave the service.
Alford, a member of the choir, said in an interview afterward that she was a bit nervous about speaking during the service.

“These are not things that we talk about a whole lot, and I don’t know some of the people here as well as others, and they don’t know those things about me,” she said. “You wonder how they’re going to accept what you’ve said.”

Askew agreed. Although he loves the tradition of having members of the congregation speak for this service, he would rather be listening to other people’s stories than telling his own.

“It was a little bit intimidating for me,” he said. “I’m not a real open person.”

Adkins, an elder of the church, spoke highly of the laity services of the past and of the day’s service.

“There’s a commonality, if you tell your story,” she said. “Part of faith is being around people interacting with each other and supporting each other.”

McColl said that after every laity service that they have done in this way, the members of the church comment on how much they appreciate the chance to learn about others.

“They like hearing the testimonials of people’s faith,” McColl said. “They say, ‘It’s always nice to hear another voice and it’s nice to hear someone who didn’t go to seminary, who didn’t get theologically trained, who may be having some of the same faith struggles that we’ve been having.’”

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