"So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which
you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter."
-II Thessalonians 2:15
I was glad to have the opportunity to worship at First Christian, Independence, on Sunday, Aug. 14, and to see friends I have known from my youth.
It brought back many memories and warmed my heart.
Margaret Shields took my picture in front of my Timothy picture in the hall way. Brent Schondelmeyer asked me to write an article on what it means to be a Timothy of this congregation.
I grew-up in this congregation with my mother and father, Hazel and Lewis McNeill, and my two brothers, Russell and Rodney. I was baptized and joined the church on March 22, 1959, by Dr. Donald McKay; I was ordained at First Christian on April 28, 1974.
Also I was glad to see that over the years that there have been changes to the church sanctuary, but that you have maintained the integrity of the building and sanctuary like John H. Felt designed it. The sanctuary and the beautiful windows have wonderful symbolism and meaning.
John H. Felt designed a place of worship that says those who come and worship at First Christian, Independence, worship in the name of the Holy Trinity. He also left a main symbol in the sanctuary that unifies the design of the building and sanctuary in what he was trying to create.
And this main symbol answers the question that he leaves for all people who come and worship at First Christian, Independence:
"How does one become and continue to be a disciple of Jesus?"
It would take another sermon to explain all of this. I was touched and inspired in seeing all of that once again as I worshiped with you on August 14.
My most prized books in my library are about First Christian, Independence:
- Alexander Procter: The Sage of Independence by Joey Jeter
- The Witness of Jesus by Alexander Procter
- The Dawn of the Reformation
My spiritual heritage comes from growing-up at First Christian, Independence, and standing in the tradition of Alexander Procter, Dr. Donald McKay, and Dr. Herbert P. Davis. It gave me a voice and place.
First Christian, Independence, was where I first learned and became excited about the Jewish and Christian Scriptures: from the Israelites' journey out of Egypt to Ruth's steadfast determination, from Jeremiah's years of persecution to Paul's acknowledgement of his own afflictions and injuries.
These stories continue through the years, from the trials of Bonhoeffer, to the struggles of Martin Luther King, Jr., to the work of Oscar Romero.
It was at the Lord's Table of First Christian, Independence, that I first came to the entirety of our soul and being, as individuals and community, centered around a unifying belief that at the Lord's Table and the Chalice are the ultimate symbols of Christ's essence, life, and sacrifice.
As a Timothy of this church, First Christian, Independence, gave me a beginning in ministry, but oh what a magnificent and magnanimous beginning it was. I shall always be grateful and indebted to my hometown church.
Dr. Ron McNeill
Pastor of Granville United Church of Christ
Granville, Il. 61326