Ewe R Blessed Ministries

Amongst Steeple People (Part 2)

(In the last blog, I started a two-part series about how the church influenced and helped shape my life. Today’s blog will conclude that series.)

The church was instrumental in embellishing my love for music from an early age. Not only were my vocal abilities utilized through singing in children’s choirs, youth choirs, ensembles, and solos, but my skills as a young pianist were also used. I can’t help but laugh now at the adult Sunday School class that sang the same three hymns for a year since that was all I could play then!

As youths, my friend Martha and I shared the responsibility as volunteer Youth Choir and Sunday evening pianists. Those years enabled me to gain confidence as an accompanist, proving valuable in years to come.

I eventually decided to quit piano and take up playing the organ. The Minister of Music offered free lessons. Martha and I dived in as beginning organists tackling the impressive three-manual instrument. I only received a handful of organ lessons, but they were enough to provide a foundation.

Pipe organ

Since I could not practice at home, I rode my bicycle two-and-a-half miles to the church to practice. My playing improved. When our church organist left, Martha and I were called upon to serve as substitutes until a permanent organist could be found. At the age of 14, I became a church organist. Suddenly my practice shifted from sporadic and entertaining to mandatory and structured. Martha and I rotated between the organ and piano every Sunday for over a year.

Later I was asked to be the organist at the Presbyterian Church and for early service at the Episcopal Church in a small town ten miles outside of my hometown. At one point, I played for three different churches in three denominations!

Throughout college and afterward, I enjoyed the role of substitute organist. Today, I serve as the organist of Meadow Brook Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama.

Music, singing, and biblical learning were not the only things my hometown church offered. For a small rural city, our youth program was exceptional. I served on the Youth Council. My first date was with an older member of the Youth Council named John. He became my first love, surprising me with my first kiss while on a Youth Council retreat.

Our youth group was active in choir tours and mission trips. I learned to step out in an evangelistic role when we went to Florida one year to do beach witnessing.

Our youth also participated in sports, including church volleyball. How I enjoyed the thrill of playing volleyball tournaments under the night lights at the city park. I am confident those games contributed to my love of volleyball and participation on the Sylacauga High School Girls Varsity Volleyball team.

Looking back on the first two decades of my life, it is easy to see how the church impacted my life spiritually and in other ways. I am indebted to the First Baptist Church of Sylacauga and the people who dedicated their time, energy, and love to show me what Christianity looks like, to instill in me a love for God, and to invest in my upbringing.

“Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-12).

More Than Worship

The church was more than just a place for me to worship and learn about scriptures. Not only did it point me to eternal salvation, but it gave me the roadmap to follow for traveling through life. Every facet, every decision of my life has been shaped by the church’s influence. I don’t know how to thrive without the church being a consistent part of my life. It has never been just a place to go in times of tragedy and hardship.

The church allows people to be grounded by providing a bedrock of faith and answers to the questions of life. But the church exists during peace and prosperity, too. “For God is not a God of disorder but of peace, as in all the meetings of God’s holy people” (I Corinthians 14:33).

Most people have not had the kind of experience I did growing up in the church. Statistics indicate a decline in the church. A survey of more than 15,000 congregations across the U.S. by Faith Communities Today was taken just before the pandemic. It found a median decline in attendance of 7% between 2015 and 2020. Half of the country’s estimated 350,000 religious congregations had 65 or less in attendance on a given weekend. In 2000, the median attendance was 137, dropping more than half in two decades. Today’s behavior, mindset, and attitude reflect the fallout of those statistics.

The church should be a lifeline where change occurs, and spiritual, emotional, and physical needs are met. It is never too late to connect with a local church and let it to impact your life.

Karen Allen

4 Comments

  1. J.D. Wininger on July 30, 2022 at 4:53 pm

    Until that day my friend, I will close my eyes and listen in my heart as you play “Amazing Grace”. Perhaps one day, God will see fit to bring me to Birmingham on a Sunday, and I’ll be the old guy with the huge smile, listening as you worship God as only you can. I’ve learned something from you my friend. Enjoyed this series.

    • Karen Allen on July 30, 2022 at 5:27 pm

      Oh, I would love that so much, J.D. You are such a blessing to me. Thank you for your encouragement.

  2. David E Luellen on July 31, 2022 at 2:23 pm

    You are a cherished member, Karen, of my Steeple People! You bless so many with your music under the Meadow Brook Baptist steeple! [And elsewhere!]

    • Karen Allen on July 31, 2022 at 5:48 pm

      Thank you, Dr. Luellen. You know how to make an organist smile.

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