I don’t remember a time when Trinity Presbyterian Church was NOT a part of my life… I was actually walking these halls, serving on committees, and worshiping here before I was even breathing, because – and I’m getting ready to date myself here – I was the “twinkle in my father’s eye” or, as they used to say, “the bun in the oven” when my mother was serving as Chair of the Pastor Nominating Committee in 1962 that called our second senior minister, Dr. H. Louis Patrick, to Trinity.
I have so many memories of my childhood intertwined with Trinity that it’s hard to narrow it down. My earliest memories are of the weekday school and “Miss Goldie” (that would be Goldie Stribling) who was my Kindergarten teacher, the swings on the playground– my favorite! – just as they are for my daughter today; singing in the choir and actually believing I was an angel in that white robe; Jr. & Sr. High Youth Group; Montreat – from Trinity’s very first sojourn there when I was about 10 or 11 and every year after that until I went to college; my father teaching me to drive in the front parking lot. There were five kids in my family and we pretty much filled that third pew over there on Sunday mornings. I was so fortunate; I had an idyllic childhood, and Trinity was a huge part of it.
Fast forward to the present. You grow up. Life happens, things change – some good, some bad. I seemed to have a run of “bad change” from age 23 to 33… When most young people that age are spreading their wings, forging their own lives and beginning their own families, I was losing family members at a pretty fast clip; first my father when I was 23, then my brother 5 years later, and then my mother 5 years after that. My other siblings, while I’m close to them, had moved away and each had families of their own. I will admit there were some sad, dark times for me.
But it was here at Trinity, with these people – “my people” – that I felt known and loved, and felt the arms of my Trinity family wrapped around me, giving me strength and the faith to believe that God would lead the way. And I believe it was my Trinity family, and all those Trinity saints and their examples of love and faith over the years, that gave me the courage eight years ago to jump out in faith – me, who has always craved security and tradition, and “playing it safe” – to jump out in faith and make one of the best decisions I have ever made– the decision to adopt my precious, silly, beautiful, loving daughter and child of God sitting over there – Madeleine Virginia Liwei Johnston.
As for Trinity’s future, I am so excited and filled with hope. I have seen the past and the many saints who invested so much of themselves to create this amazing community of believers. I have seen struggle and difficult times, but it’s made us stronger, and I truly believe the best is yet to come. The energy is palpable and there seems to be a common desire across all age groups for Trinity to be a significant force for good beyond these walls, to seek ways that we can give the Bread of Heaven to others who need examples of love and faith in their lives, so they can feel our arms and God’s love wrapped around them – which is really what it’s all about, isn’t it?
Thank you for this chance to express my love and gratitude for Trinity Presbyterian Church and her people – here’s to Trinity: the past, the present, and most of all, what’s yet to come.