I was blessed to be born into a strong nuclear family with a devoted faith life. I was raised in the First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Little Rock, Arkansas. This was my Mother’s church. She sang in the choir. My Father had been raised in a rural Baptist congregation, but joined Mom’s church when they got married.
It is the practice in that church to serve communion every Sunday and it was observed using only grape juice. One of my earliest memories of the church is when I was probably no more than 5 or 6 years old, and with a Sunday school buddy, we got into what Lutheran’s would call the sacristy before Sunday school, and drank a number cups of grape juice from the communion tray. We never knew if we had been found out.
That denomination practices “believers’ baptism” so I was fully immersed during a worship service in the baptistery at the front of the church when I was about 13 years old.
I must have received a solid Christian education. We faithfully attended Sunday school every Sunday and I recall that by the time I was a teenager, I had significant scriptural knowledge particularly of the Gospels. My Father taught adult Sunday school nearly all of his adult life. I remember his reading the Bible and otherwise preparing his lessons almost every Saturday evening. He was a popular teacher. I was aware of favorable comments on his lessons among congregation members. Of the several adult Sunday school classes, his was always the largest.
Dad and I discussed the scriptures not infrequently over meals. He never read the Bible literally, so we engaged in a lot of speculation about the meaning of different stories. Those discussions sometimes made Mom uncomfortable, and she would admonish us, “I hope you don’t let others know what you two are thinking.”
The Church had a strong youth program, and I was an active participant throughout high school. At the same time I was dating a young woman who was Jewish. Her family belonged to the Reformed Jewish congregation here in Little Rock, but they were not particularly religious. They strongly held to their Jewish identity, but seldom attended services at the Temple.
I have a vivid memory of a Sunday school class when I was a senior in high school. The class was led by a very poplar teacher, who had taught the high school class for a number of years. We were discussing John 3:16. At the end of the class, I approached the teacher, whom I liked and admired, and asked does that scripture mean that Jews will go to hell if they do not accept Christ as their Lord and Savior? She replied in the affirmative. I found this answer unacceptable not only because I was in love with this young woman, but also because the answer simply did not square with my understanding of the Jesus revealed in the Gospels. As I look back that exchange was a pivotal event in my faith journey.
I went away to college and among other courses took a religion course in the Judeo-Christian tradition and a separate course in comparative religion, which surveyed the world’s great religions. I became convinced that the institutional church, a/k/a, “organized religion” had betrayed the Gospel. I saw in history much more evil than good emanating from religious institutions. I still considered myself to be a follower of Jesus Christ, but I shared Thomas Jefferson’s skepticism of the supernaturalism in the Bible and wanted nothing to do with any “church” group.
I ended up marrying my high school sweetheart while I was in college and we raised our two boys with little religious identification. At Christmas I would insist that the boys listen to a reading of the Christmas story, and we otherwise discussed the Bible as literature. In a conversation with my oldest son, Alan, when he was in high school, I quizzed him about his own religious beliefs. To one of my inquiries, he replied, “Dad, don’t worry I think about these things, but I believe in the “big bang.”
We all were content with our life together until January 1, 1988, when Alan was killed in an automobile accident in the early hours of New Year’s Day after being the designated driver for a group of his college-aged friends from Governor’s School who had celebrated the incoming New Year together. It was a single car accident caused by his falling asleep and leaving highway 630 to crash into a pole. He probably did not suffer. The toxicology report routinely done in the case of an automobile accident reported no alcohol in his blood. He had been faithful as the designated driver. It is impossible to describe the sense of loss and despair that swept over us. Only days before his death, I had sat at our dinner table with Alan discussing Socrates’s Parable of the Cave. He was a bright and happy college student with a big heart and enthusiasm for the life that was coming at him.
My wife and I proceeded into a sustain period of what I now understand to be “differential grieving.” I wanted to return to normalcy and support our younger son. My wife could not climb out of her despair, so we ended up in continued and progressive underlying conflict. Within 5 years of Alan’s death our marriage crumbled.
To my surprise and chagrin my despair about life deepened. I never thought anything could be more painful than losing a child, but the prolonged abandonment process of a crumbling 25-year marriage seemed to eclipse the pain I experienced in early 1988. I spent at least a year numb and dysfunctional. I could not even function as a lawyer.
I felt betrayal and anger at the loss of a child and a marriage. There seemed no to be no justice or purpose in what I was enduring. I was so estranged from God that I directed no blame or even anger toward God. I did resolve, however, that I would henceforth strive to do anything for others to relieve emotional pain and despair. I wanted no one to ever feel what I was feeling.
A wise professional counselor, who happened to be a practicing Buddhist, helped me to begin recovery. I read about Buddhism, commenced a vigorous meditation practice and attended several Buddhist retreats. My life started to take on some order. My anxiety dissipated. I was again able to function professionally.
During this time I started dating. I knew that I did not want to remain single, although I had learned to live alone fairly contentedly with only a couple of golden retrievers as intimate companions. During this time I met Trudy. We dated for a couple of years with the mutual recognition that we were genuinely and deeply attracted to each other. I was dating other women at the time, and I was concerned about making the “right” choice in another attempt at marriage. What differentiated Trudy from other women I had dated were a variety of factors, but most compelling was her spirituality. She was deeply committed to her faith and to her church. I found that spiritual depth to be irresistible. I asked her to marry me knowing that in order to share her life, I would have to share her faith, but I told her, “I will go to church with you, but never more than twice in a row. If I go more frequently, they will expect me to show up.”
After attending at Faith and engaging with Pastor Michael McCarthy, I became very interested in Lutheran Theology. Being something of a skeptic, I was not going to commit to a faith practice that I did not understand and respect. I discovered that ELCA Lutheran theology and practice squared with my earliest understandings of the gospel. I thought maybe I had found a home.
I had experienced Jesus as a 6th or 7th grader when I realized that all humans were going to die. That realization created several sleepless nights and great anxiety until I spent one night in continual prayer. I believe that Jesus literally came along side me that evening and I have never experienced a fear of death since then. That relationship was cemented by the book FRANNY AND ZOOEY by J.D. Salinger. Zooey knew the same Jesus I had experienced.
As I returned to a faith practice I brought with me my experiences through mediation practice and Buddhist teaching. I now understand that my relationship with Jesus is only a gateway to the creator, to enlightenment, to Santori, which is the constant awareness of a mutually loving relationship with God, the understanding that all creation is one, and that creation is ongoing. This awareness brings great comfort and “the peace that passes all understanding.” It also determines one’s purpose.
I believe the statement made by Christ as he exited from the desert of temptation, that “the Kingdom of God is at hand,” carries with it a call to participate in the coming of that Kingdom. And that call is to serve God’s intention for all of God’s creation without regard to race, creed, or belief system. All of the great faith traditions point to the same reality; they just use different fingers.
Peter has been a member of Faith Lutheran Church since 1999. Peter grew up in Little Rock and practices law here. He is married to Trudy and together they enjoy visits with their kids and grandkids, getting away for some fly fishing, and at home enjoy raising the dogs, keeping the bees, and tending a community garden. Peter is engaged in the church Lead Team, Via de Cristo ministries, serving dinner at Our House, Arkansas-Oklahoma Synod ministries, and continuing to study, wrestle with, and learn more from scripture, theology, and the church. Peter is passionate about interfaith relationships, racial reconciliation, and participating in what God is doing to bring in the Kingdom of God.
On a Sunday in the late 1960s I decided to start my search for a church home. We had just moved to Little Rock where my then husband was the new Commissioner of Corrections under Governor Winthrop Rockefeller. So I dressed for church in what I was used to wearing in West Virginia – one of my big hats and dress gloves as well as Sunday clothes. Well, so much for sneaking in to give a new church the once over and decided if Faith was the church for us. Lucky for me, my search was over and Faith has continued to be the church for me. The folks at Faith are so accepting, so full of grace, it is a happy place. I was raised a Methodist and became a Lutheran when I married – an easy transition.
It was easy to find a teaching job for me because that was the year that Little Rock started integration of elementary teachers – sending white teachers to the east side of town and black teachers to the west. What an opportunity for a do-gooder like me – I could integrate the elementary schools and Bob could solve the many problems in the state’s prisons – dream on! You can tell from the news reports of today that we did not accomplish the opportunities set for us!
In retirement I have enjoyed hiking, traveling to many parts of the United States and Canada to pursue that hobby. That hobby is now in the past so I get joy in vegetable gardening. I eat my efforts and give lots to the food pantry. I care about food hunger and do what I can to support organizations that help relieve that. This is one of the issues I truly care about.
The people who have shaped my faith in the past are legion. Now I have Sunday sermons and the Wednesdays Bible study at Faith to keep my faith fed every week. Our monthly meetings of WELCA feed my faith, also. Faith Lutheran is a cafeteria for faith feeding – come join the feast.
As the church changes, I hope it keeps its focus on community service, especially helping those who need food, clothing and a safe place to live. I like the variety of ways the leadership of this church gives us to serve.
Some wisdom I can pass on is there is always more than one side to every situation. Be quiet and listen to those other sides. You will develop a wonderful, peaceful tolerance for your fellow travelers through life--granted I have to work on tolerance every day!
Doris has been a member of Faith Lutheran since 1969. She has served on the church council and numerous committees through the years. She is active in WELCA (Women of the ELCA), Church Women United, a First Touch greeter, sharing the word of God as lector in worship, and studying the word of God in the Wednesday morning Bible study.
“Be sure you have your Sunday clothes ready for the morning,” My dad would say to my brother and I the night before Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas services. Attending the three services seemed to be a requirement for we three Southern Baptists.
As we made our way into the large white church my grandfather attended, the same one at which my cousin preached, the crowd of people always overwhelmed me. Saying good morning to everyone was a must.
“Let’s go find a seat with Grandpa,” My dad would beckon my brother and me.
About an hour in, I was prying my eyes open like a freshmen college student in an 8 am class. I knew church was where I wanted to be, I just didn’t feel a part of it, and I have always struggled to find people similar to me who would keep me interested in church and enjoying God’s true grace.
Further down the road, always staying true to my three services, I met a girl… I give a lot of my faith credit to Emily. She introduced me to Genesis, a UALR campus ministry. Aptly named, Genesis was truly my starting place, where young people like me were looking for a life with Christ. Genesis is a renovated house on the corner of 28th Street and Fair Park Boulevard. I mention this because the homely feeling I got from walking through that squeaky screen door and smelling freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies let me know Christ was waiting for me whenever I needed him. Since that day, I hear young curious lives walk in the door and always ask, “who lives here?” I never answer the question, I just let them take it all in—just like I did my first day there.
After a few months of participating in the campus ministry activities, Emily and I decided we needed a church home on top of Genesis, so we commenced church hunting. You know how it goes; you attend a service, and you just know or just don’t think so. One fall Sunday morning, we decided to try out some church on the corner of Mississippi and West Markham, the one with the stained glass.
That morning, I was overwhelmed with welcomes. Little did I know I was walking right into a sanctuary of people I already knew and people with whom I would grow closer.
Since that fall day, two years ago, Faith Lutheran has been the church home I always needed, full of great people leading me closer to God. A few months ago, someone challenged me to acolyte. You might be wondering how bringing God’s light into church is a challenge. Well, I’m blind, and carrying fire through an obstacle course with God watching isn’t exactly my idea of a relaxing Sunday morning. However, walking that fire down the middle of the church and listening to people change their views on what can and can’t be done makes me realize we all are part of a world larger than ourselves, and setting an example is the least I can do to change it for the better. That being said, my favorite bible verse is Matthew 7:5, “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.” Throughout my faith journey, one thing has stuck out to me the most, and that is whether you can or can’t see the fire doesn’t mean it isn’t there.
Eric, an Arkansas native, joined Faith Lutheran in the fall of 2016, with his then-girlfriend, now fiancé, Emily. Eric serves in worship as the acolyte and crucifer, led part of our financial health focus of A Life in Balance, as well as sharing about his vocation as a writing instructor and graduate student at UALR. Eric is active in the Arkansas School for the Blind’s Alumni Association, where he serves as treasurer. Eric wrestled while in school and has coached wrestling too. Eric is new to Lutheranism and he shares his faith, curiosity, and openness in this community. Eric is easy going, enjoys playing music, being in nature, and takes on any challenge he encounters with determination and enthusiasm.
I became a Child of God and a Lutheran as an infant when I was baptized. My parents and grandparents and cousins and extended family all attended the same Lutheran church and Sundays were filled with the love of Christ and the love of family. So, at an early age, I associated church and Sunday School with the warmth of loving family members and the joy of reuniting each week in fellowship.
My favorite part of the Gospel is John 10 --- the Good Shepherd. As children in Sunday School, we were all given a picture of Jesus holding a lamb. When I studied the Book of John, the chapter of the sheep knowing the master’s voice was so vivid to me and the words painted such a picture of security, love, and comfort that that scripture is written on my heart. He is my shepherd and King.
Along with the Sunday School teachers and my parents who spoke and prayed God’s words, my faith walk has been greatly influenced by Pastor Michael McCarthy through Bible studies and spiritual guidance counseling and by my husband, Steven. The first time I heard Steve pray in a Bible class I was drawn to his confident faith and love of Jesus.
My favorite Faith Lutheran Church memory is my wedding day to Steven. It was a joyful celebration with the church members and our children and the youth group participating in the service. Starting out a marriage with the loving support of our church family and continuing with that support makes me smile to remember that Steve and I will be celebrating 25 years soon! A second favorite memory is the ordination of our daughter here at Faith and seeing her dance up the aisle as she rejoiced in her call! Moments shared with church family are special and blessed! Thank you, all, for sharing in our lives!
Some wisdom I can pass on is: write in your Bible! Dog ear the pages that call to you! I never had until sharing a Bible study at Faith and receiving permission from Elizabeth to make notations in the margins of my Bible! Now I enjoy journaling in my Bible and adding stickers, drawing pictures, painting across the pages to join in the story and to highlight the spiritual markers of life. Big Advice: Develop a spiritual relationship with Jesus! Do everything you can to know Him!
Favorite hymn first learned at Faith is "Knowing You, Jesus". We must ask the worship committee to add it to a service again.
My favorite scripture is Psalm 37:4! Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. It took many years of Bible study to realize that the closer I move to Him, the more my heart's desire is to be closer to Him! What a wonderful change of perspective!
There are so many things I love about Faith Lutheran, but I am so very touched by the love and acceptance shown to my children and grandchildren! I love the Wee Worship Ministry of the church to draw the children into the hearts of the church body and the worship experience! I also love those noise makers! Another favorite scripture of mine is "Make a joyful noise unto the Lord" Psalm 100:1 Lawson asks to come to church and soon so will Jax. The images of the shooting stars at Christmas Eve service were priceless! I receive great joy from the Bible Studies with others at Faith: Bethel Bible Study, Experiencing God, The Holy Spirit and You, Crown Ministry, and many more because as I grew closer to Christ, I was growing closer to my family at Faith!
Some of you may be surprised to know that I like to tap dance in elevators and on stairwells. Sometimes you may hear my tapping shoes and then you'll know I am happy being at Faith!
I have experienced the grace of God daily and am blessed to be His. I had a wonderful experience at Via de Cristo where for the 72 hours of the spiritual retreat, I was able to experience the grace of God presented in so many tangible ways by other lay leaders, spiritual directors and servants of Christ that I was overwhelmed with His love and the love of others. It takes a lot to understand that unmerited, unearned grace that is freely given! I thank God for calling me to a retreat to experience that! I thank God for His grace and mercy!
Peace and grace to you!
Becky has been a member of Faith Lutheran Church for 29 years and in that time has engaged in many faith formation opportunities, Bible studies, Via de Cristo weekends, and much more! She has led the congregation as the chair of the call committee, shares the gospel often through preaching, led the group that created the Wee Worship Place, and shares her gifts of creativity through additions to special worship services and the altered book group. Becky is an audiologist and works children through the school system. Becky is also a wife, mother, and grandmother.
My family’s faith background is quite limited. Little can be recalled about my paternal grandparents since they both died while I was still quite young. My maternal grandparents are remembered as being a bit harsh and not at all religious. They were more or less “Catholic,” in name only, with church attendance rare.
My parents separated when I was two years old. Growing up, for me was especially complicated. Between the ages of two and six, I mostly lived in other people’s homes for short periods of time. I was constantly being shuttled between this aunt or that one, or this uncle or that family friend, or sometimes my mom, and sometimes my dad, and sometimes a grandparent. During that time, I do not recall experiencing any established routines, traditions or much instruction religious or otherwise. I do remember feeling fearful, isolated and “defective.” My parents did divorce and both eventually remarried. For whatever reasons, I, by the age of seven, (but not my sisters,) came to live with my dad and stepmother. In that setting we seldom attended church, did not read the Bible, and certainly did not pray.
I became a follower of Jesus only after a personal tragedy had struck when I was age thirty. My dear, beautiful sister, Louise, suddenly and unexpectedly, died of a brain aneurysm at age 36. She was starting a new life and new job in Little Rock when she died, leaving behind three small children. I was broken and devastated with grief. I remember weeping bitterly and uncontrollably. What occurred next change my life forever. Father Albert Schneider of St. Theresa’s Catholic Church in Little Rock was summoned to speak the eulogy and lead the Prayer service for Louise. As he began to speak, you could see the kindness in his eyes and face, and the empathy for all of Louise’s loved ones who were hurt by her death. He continued to speak calmly, and reassuringly, and with deep conviction, about God’s love for Louise, and the possibility of reuniting with her in Heaven. He spoke of sin, repentance, forgiveness and mercy, and how God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, so that we may live. My tears of grief turned to tears of hope. Shortly after the funeral, I began attending Mass on a regular basis and became a member of St. Theresa’s Catholic Church. I began reading the Bible, cover to cover, and several times over. In the process, I fell in love with Jesus.
I pray on a regular basis, usually informally, but it can be in any place and at any time. Often I pray for peace among the nations, and for unity and social justice. Sometimes I just meditate and let my mind wander and give thanks to God for the people in my life, and the mercy I’ve been shown. Thank You, Abba.
People who have shaped my faith and my life are Faith Albert Schneider, (as noted,) and Becky Webb. Al Schneider is no longer a priest, he left to marry, but is still very much a man of God. Becky Webb is a principled and Godly woman, as well as my significant other, best friend and confidant. She encourages me to attend church on a regular basis and says I still have a lot of years to make up for.
I like to help others by being of service, or by nurturing and encouraging them in appropriate ways.
Things that have shaped me include great teachers, good friends, inspiring mentors (both living and dead,) my sweet children and my sweet Jesus.
People are surprised that I am “liberal” on social matters and “conservative” on fiscal matters. In that way, almost everybody is mad at me for something.
My favorite parts of Scripture are many. The two most meaningful to me are perhaps,
“Don’t urge me to leave you or turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. (Ruth 1:16-18)
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matt 22:36-40)
God’s peace to all
Tony has been a friend of Faith Lutheran for over 20 years and is a beloved part of the Faith Lutheran community. He is the grill master at Oktoberfest and Worship in the Park, serves meals at Our House, and lends a hand when it's needed. He is a servant leader who lives his faith in his daily actions who those he encounters.