I Believe in the Church, by Rev. David Mallory

With a trumpet of shock in her voice, the young woman said to me, “these people don’t even know me and yet they are constantly asking what they can do to help.” Her and her husband had been casually visiting the congregation for several months when he was severely injured in a boating accident. Members of the church had been showering them with food, cards, companionship, prayers and love. She was dumbfounded by the response.

Over the last number of decades, a great deal of criticism has been pointed at the church for being archaic and out-of-touch. Much of this is deserved. However, even with her many shortcomings, I still believe in the church.

Human beings are created as social creatures. Particularly in times of hardship and struggle, we cope most effectively when we are rooted in safe and meaningful relationships. Yet there are so few arenas in which these healthy relationships can be nurtured. Schools are often fractured  by bullying and social ladders. Corporate America is more concerned with profits than with people. Even local neighborhoods are often fenced by mistrust. In a world in which rampant individualism and crippling isolation are commonplace, the church is a sanctuary where all of God’s creatures can gather at the same table. There is no Jew or Greek, no slave or free. The leopard can lie with the goat and the cow can feed with the bear. With all of her faults and failures, the church is still one of the few venues in which our commonness as the beloved children of God is celebrated. For this reason, I believe in the church.

……….

GA TIB BOOK David MalloryDavid Mallory is the Senior Minister of Hillyer Memorial Christian Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. Prior to that, he was the Senior Minister at the First Christian Church of Albany, Texas. A second career minister, he graduated from Brite Divinity School in 2000. He is the husband of Amy, father of Robert and Stacey and soon to be a granddad. Wow, he’s old!

I Believe in the Church, by Rev. Allison Lanza

Dear Church,

I was watching you this weekend. It was early on a Saturday morning. 20 of you were holding hands in a circle in that old fellowship hall.  I noticed how diverse you were.  In that circle some of you were children, some young adults, some weathered and wise from many years on this planet.  Some of you were black and some white. Some had large houses, some 1 room apartments, and some of you had nowhere to call home.  Some of you have been going to church since you were babies and others walked into this strange community just a few months ago. In that circle you were CEO’s, janitors, marathon runners, chemo patients, addicts, granddads and moms.  I saw how different you were, but I don’t think you noticed the differences.  I could see in the way you treated each other that you saw the other faces around the circle just as fellow church members, as equal, beloved children of God.  Standing there you prayed that God’s love might be known through bread and smiles.  Then you went outside.  You spent the morning giving out free fresh produce to your neighbors.  When folks asked if they qualified for food, you told them, “yes, this is for everyone!”  When they asked how much food they could take, you said, “as much as you want, take some for your friends and neighbors too.”

Church, this weekend, I saw you at your best.  You were following in Jesus’ footsteps as you gave food to the hungry and loved your neighbors as yourself, no questions asked.  You trusted in God’s abundance and generosity instead of trusting in your own fear that there might not be enough.  It was beautiful.

A lot of folks are losing faith in you church.  I see where they are coming from.  Too often you have chosen shame instead of grace.  You have closed your doors and told some members of the body of Christ that they are not welcome because of who they love, or because they ask questions, or because they do not believe exactly the same way that you do. You have tried too hard to be cool and powerful and in doing so you have sometimes left Jesus and his teachings behind. You have gotten stuck in your ways, unwilling to change.

In spite of this, I still believe in you.  I don’t believe this is who you really are.  I just think this is what you act like when you are afraid.  You are better than this.  Church, I believe in you because I have seen you when you are at your very best.

I have seen you baptize a child and promise to raise them in God’s love, and then I have watched you follow through.  I have seen you bring casseroles to a devastated family and read psalms beside the hospital bed.  I have seen you show up when the tornado hits and stay long after the news cameras have left.  I have watched you help teenagers hear God’s still, small voice and I have seen you whisper to the outcast, “you are God’s beloved child and you are welcome here.”

I have heard your prophetic voice crying for justice, your hymns sung out in praise and your quiet prayers whispered into the silence.  I have watched as you fed the hungry, visited the imprisoned, healed the sick, and let the oppressed go free.  I watched you knock down the walls that divide us and invite us into one community as sisters and brothers in God.  When the world says, be afraid, I have heard you whisper, love.  I have seen you proclaim that love has overcome hate, life has overcome death, and that hope will have the final say. I have watched you live as if you really believe, in spite of the evidence otherwise, that this might be true.

I believe in you church.

I believe in you because you raised me.  I have seen you come alive.

So, let go of your fear.  Be God’s church in this world again.

We need you.

You can do it.

I believe in you.

………………………..

GA TIB BOOK Allison LanzaRev. Allison Lanza serves as an Associate Chaplain at TCU.  Prior to this she served at Hillyer Memorial Christian Church in Raleigh NC.  She graduated from Trinity University and Vanderbilt Divinity School.  She is a part of Ridglea Christian Church in Fort Worth.  The daughter of a TCU professor, she has been a horned frog since birth!

I Believe in Walking, by Rev. Megan Peglar

I feel better on days that I get out and walk. Or run. The last few weeks, I’ve been in a step challenge with some friends to see who can walk the most. I haven’t won yet, but it’s helped me to pound the pavement a bit more than I might have otherwise. Each Tuesday morning at 6 (sooooo early!), my friend Jen and I get out there, walking together to start our day. A lot of evenings after work, my husband and I take our dog for a walk, to catch up with each other and to expend some of the nine year old pup’s never-ending energy.

For me, walking is more than just accumulating steps. Walking is my way of connecting to the ground beneath my feet. And that ground has shifted a lot in my life; one of my constants has been change of address. I attended five different elementary schools by the time I was in 4th grade; my family and I moved from one town to another halfway through my sophomore year of high school; and since getting my sweet dog Zoe during my senior year at TCU (in 2006), we’ve lived in nine different homes. Walking in each of those places has grounded me, and helped me to root down even as I wander.

Walking helps me to get to know my surroundings, and my place in the world. I love to look at all the houses I pass, spot the neighborhood cats, hear the birds’ songs, find interesting trails, notice the changing of the seasons. Walking deepens my friendships with walking buddies, new and old. Walking gives me time to think, and pray, and listen. Time to dream and explore. Time to dwell upon how God is calling me to walk in the way of Jesus – which, for me, is walking with all people through every season of life, no matter where I am.

…………………………………………………………

GA TIB BOOK Megan PeglarRev. Megan Peglar is the minister at River Oaks Christian Church in northwest Fort Worth, where she has served since 2012. She graduated from TCU in 2006 with a degree in Religion, and from Brite Divinity School in 2010 with her Master of Divinity. Out of all the places Megan has lived, she’s lived in Fort Worth the longest — and is happy to call it home. She shares her home with her husband, Steve, and her stepsons, Adam and Ethan.

I Believe in the Open Table, by Mary Katherine Spalding

My story starts here.  I was born and raised in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).  In the Disciples Church, we practice what has become known as the “Open Table.”  In our weekly worship services, the Open Table refers to the communion table where all are welcome to take part in the Lord’s Supper, or Eucharist.  Pastor Rob Bell, though not a Disciples minister, describes this practice best stating, “The Eucharist is about setting the table for the whole world.”  In a broader, long-term concept, the Open Table is the invitation for the world to join in community and conversation.

I worked at a church in Waco, Texas.  During communion each week, the senior minister would say, “This table belongs to our Lord, not our church. All are welcome.”  I loved this reminder each week.  When I was growing up I went to a church where you were not allowed to take communion until you had been baptized.  Adults passed the trays and skipped right over the children in the row.  When I was finally baptized on Palm Sunday in 2002, I felt like I had joined an exclusive club.  The following Sunday, Easter Sunday 2002, I sat with the rest of my faith development class as we awaited our turn to walk to the front of the congregation and take our first communion as “true believers.”

As I got older, I began to have frustrations with communion only being offered to those who had been baptized, as though children who confessed through their actions each week that they believed in the love and power of Christ were not welcome to partake in the feast.  Today, I believe people of all faiths and all ages are welcome to the table.  The table isn’t about being a part of a special club or sitting at the grown up table.  The table is about embracing each and every child of God.  The table is about inviting the whole world to feel the love of Christ.

………………….

GA TIB BOOK Mary Katherine SpaldingMary Katherine Spalding is a 2013 graduate of Texas Christian University with a BA in Religion and a minor in Sociology. Currently, she is residing in Northern Germany where she is working as an Au Pair. In her spare time she enjoys reading theology, playing tennis, and singing.

I Believe God’s Creation is Awesome, by Janet Lanza

As I sit on a shaded breeze-cooled porch at the beach and experience the ocean’s vastness and rhythm, awesome is an easy word to think of.  The ocean with its size, waves, currents and ever changing colors is truly a work of art.  My favorite thing to do at the beach is to take an early morning walk along the water’s edge.  As I’m walking, I sing familiar hymns such as “This is the Day the Lord Hath Made” and “Praise God from Whom all Blessings Flow.”  It just seems like the right thing to do and it is here in this awesome place and time that I feel closest to God.

I love to garden and I am constantly in awe of nature.  How did this huge thick stemmed okra plant grow from that tiny seed?  How did that small tomato plant produce the bright red home grown fruit that tastes like heaven in your mouth?  And how in this huge world did those squash bugs know that I was growing squash and decide to show up for an unwelcome visit?  It’s mysterious and awesome and all a part of God’s creation.

I imagine my family may tire of my excitement over the sky.  So many times I call out their names or text them and tell them to join me or go look at some marvelous sight in the sky.  Sunrises, sunsets, colors, pictures in clouds, a full moon and the beautiful “Jesus light” that streams from the sun when it starts to peak from behind a cloud are majestic and awesome and I’m so grateful that God created them and gave me eyesight to enjoy them.

Have you ever watched a bird build a nest?  How awesome is that?  How does that little bird know how to construct a nest that will withstand the elements and keep the eggs and baby birds safe? And the color of bird’s eggs and their beaks and feathers and the grace with which they soar through the air…that could not have happened by chance.  It is surely the handiwork and creativity of an awesome God!

During my 25 years of training students to work with preschool children with communication disorders at TCU, I had the opportunity every day to experience the awesomeness of the human mind and spirit.  TCU students overcame their fears to provide effective speech and language therapy to the children.  Families diligently brought their children, followed through with home practice and surrounded them with the love they needed to face their hurdles.  And oh my, those sweet children!  Some of them had so many barriers in their way, but continued to work hard to communicate in ways that most of us take for granted.  Thanks be to God for creating all of those awesome people and putting us together.

If you have had the privilege to experience childbirth as a mom or a dad, you have been in the midst of God’s amazing creation.  There are no words to describe the feeling of awe and love that come with that newborn baby. I believe that we are all children of God and God created every awesome one of us.

Each time I had to change my password at TCU, it took me forever because I tried to come up with a word or phrase that would inspire me when I logged on to the computer.  One of my favorites included the phrase “in awe.”  I wanted to be reminded often not to become too grown up or jaded, but like a small child learning about her new world, to see the brilliance and awesomeness of God’s creation everywhere we look.

I wish the same for you.  Being “in awe” helps you stop and appreciate your time on earth.

……………

GA TIB BOOK Janet LanzaJanet Lanza has recently retired from 25 years on faculty at the Davies College of Communication Sciences and Disorders at TCU and 38 years as a Speech-Language Pathologist.  She is currently enjoying gardening, cooking and all of God’s awesome creation.  She is an active life-long member at Ridglea Christian Church in Fort Worth TX.

I Believe in Creativity, by Brenda Mapel

I have this fear, it’s a fear that paralyzes my mind and extinguishes my dreams. As I begin to think about it now I am unable to move. If you dare, then imagine this: a blank canvas, so pristine without any flaws or smudges. It holds a regal emptiness that boasts: “Paint me if you dare, attempt to improve upon my untouched beauty.” How can something as simple as a blank space be so intimidating? Perhaps it is the looming cloud of perfection that hangs over our heads that stirs inside us an anxiety that calls us to erase all flaws. But, I have a secret that allows me to harvest my fears and transforms them into courage. I believe in creativity.

Yes creativity, the word linked to the weird kid in school that was covered in paint-stains and wore mismatching socks. To some it is insignificant and unnecessary, but to me it is my ultimate super power. Creativity is more than a talent or the product of an extracurricular activity. It is a force that challenges norms. To be creative means to think outside the box; this doesn’t just lead to beautiful expressions, it more importantly solves problems in a positive way. Creativity also gives birth to self acceptance. A creative person gathers mistakes and flaws and transforms them into beauty. It is important that we believe in creativity because, a creative mind sees the ugliness of the world and chooses to have the courage to make it into something stunning.

Brenda creativity

………………………………….

GA TIB BOOK Brenda MapelBrenda Mapel is a Senior at TCU studying Religion and Anthropology. She grew up in Arkansas City, KS and transferred from Cowley College to Texas Christian University her junior year. She is an active participant of Disciples of Christ and would like to pursue a career in ministry. Brenda is highly interested in living a life devoted to spiritual practice and caring for the environment

I Believe in Church Camp, by Rev. Tiff Williams

She was angry, hostile and sometimes violent.  She was prone to verbal and physical outbursts.  By the end of that week of church camp, we adults were running out of ways to help her and to keep the other campers from lashing out at her.  We were afraid the bullying was going to start.  Then she signed up for the talent show.  She got up to sing and said, “I’d like to dedicate this song to my dad who died.”  Suddenly it clicked.  The anger and the frustration all made sense.  She was grieving and we didn’t know it.  The beginning of our week might have been so different if we had only known what was wrong and how to help.

She got up and sang the most sincere and absolutely worst solo I have ever heard.  It was off key, off pitch, off rhythm, off everything.  When she stopped, she just stood there at the front of the room with her head down and her eyes closed, clutching the microphone for dear life.  Middle school kids can be cruel, but they weren’t that night.  That night they gave that little girl who had hurled insults at them all week a thunderous standing ovation.  It lasted 3 minutes.

Some people think church camp doesn’t matter anymore, that it’s obsolete.  Kids have too much other stuff to do with their time, they’ll say.  To them I say, church camp still matters to that little girl.  It still matters because she needs somewhere in her life to receive that applause.  It matters because those other kids need a safe place to practice loving like Jesus loved.  It matters because there still need to be places in the world where we practice living as if the Kingdom of Heaven has already come to Earth.  It still matters.

I believe in church camp.

………………………………………..

 GA TIB BOOK Tiff WilliamsRev. Tiff Austin Williams (TCU ’05) is the Director of Programming at Disciples Crossing Camp in Athens, Texas. She is married to Daryn and they have a one-year-old daughter named Belle, who is the star of their household.  Of all of her college experiences, Tiff is most grateful for her time in the TCU Religion Department, where she was taught to be a citizen of the world.  She apologizes to Dr. Lahutsky for the probable grammatical errors in this text

I Believe in Mascara and the Power of Women, by Rev. Cara Gilger

“I am not sure I am a feminist…I wear makeup…”I carefully, hesitantly laid out at the desk of Claudia Camp one late spring afternoon in her office in Beasley Hall.  She leaned forward trying emphatically to suppress a chuckle, getting so close the my face, removing her spectacles and triumphantly exclaiming “You can be a feminist and wear make-up–I am wearing mascara!”

Never mind that I couldn’t see a speck of Loreal on her too close eye lashes…

It took me years and a Master of Divinity to figure out exactly what I was working out and trying to express all those years ago sitting in the 1970s mass produced office chair on the third floor of Beasley.  I love cooking–it is a sacrament that I offer the people I love and even people I don’t much care for.  I prefer dresses and love yard work. I rock climb and do yoga and sew. And I believe in mascara. I believe in the power of choice–to choose to wear or not wear mascara. To choose to work outside the home or to fully put your education and passion to shaping the next generation living in your home. But most importantly I believe that women are powerful and that we are most powerful when we support one another in growing into the people God created us to be.

Fast forward a little over a decade from that warm spring day in Beasley…I am a full-time vocational minister who serves women and children specifically and a mother who grew and brought into the world two bright and energetic girls. My oldest daughter’s favorite game to play in the yard these days, donning a tomato stake as a staff is “girl-Moses” because why not?  Moses was powerful and so is she. Moses was called by God and so is she.  God had a heart for Moses understanding who he was and God has a heart for her learning the same thing.

I know what I was getting at all those years ago and realize that Claudia and I were sitting there trying to wrap our arms around the same thing, although from different directions.  I believe that there is power in choice, there is power in what we choose to wear or not wear and that that power belongs to each and every human God has created.  Mascara, clothes, names, identities, they belong to us because ultimately when we exercise our power to choose, we exercise our listening to who we are and who God created us to be.  And I believe that whoever that is, is beautiful, thoughtful, powerful and kind–mascara or not.

…………………………………

GA TIB BOOK Cara GilgerCara Gilger serves on staff at First Christian Church, McKinney, Texas, with a focus in Christian Education.  Cara grew up in Oklahoma, but crossed the Red River as soon as possible to attend Texas Christian University, graduating in 2004 with a Bachelors in Religions Studies.  Cara continued her studies in Nashville at Vanderbilt Divinity School where she received her Masters of Divinity.  Cara lives with her husband Tim and two daughters and when she’s not doing ministry or chasing two active girls she can be found practicing yoga, reading or gardening.

I Believe in Confrontation, by Mary Kate Thompson

Growing up I was never one to question authority. I was always good at following rules and getting along with everyone. While I still believe that these are admirable qualities, during my time at TCU I have come to be a believer in confrontation.

I have come to believe in confrontation first in my relationships. Being open and upfront with those that are important to you only fosters a better relationship. Honesty is after all the best policy. I do not mean to stand for hurtful sharing or brutal honesty. However, in my personal relationships I have found that in order to grow in them I have to be able to have the courage to confront the problems and situations that are bound to arise. Nothing good comes from being passive aggressive or holding grievances.

I have come to believe in confrontation when I am standing up for myself. This is not something that comes naturally to me. However it is an important life skill to be able to be an advocate for yourself. This can be as simple as talking to a teacher about a deserving grade or as big as protesting for personal rights. If you never learn to help yourself you can find it difficult to help others in the future.

Finally I believe in confronting my fears. Coming to TCU so far from home and where I did not know anyone was one of the scariest things that I have ever done. However, it has been one of the most transformational and shaping experiences of my life. Confronting your fears keeps you from holding yourself back. It can open unimaginable worlds and adventures, such as travel and love. Finding the courage to confront the scary things in your life might not change your situation or other people, but it has amazing powers to change you for the better. Therefore, I believe in confrontation.

………………………………….

GA TIB BOOK Mary Kate ThompsonMary Kate Thompson is a senior philosophy and political science double major. She hopes to attend Law School after she graduates. She has been involved all over campus including Sigma Kappa sorority, the pre-law club and Disciples on Campus. She is originally from Rogers, Arkansas, had has been a member of the Disciples denomination her whole life.

I Believe in Singing, by Molly Suggs

I believe in singing. I believe that singing, although you might not realize it, is a natural phenomenon. When you do away with all distractions and people and you’re left with your simple self, I think there is song. What I am referring to, of course, is singing in the shower.

Honestly, in our most vulnerable and private space, we are moved to sing. I sing in the shower, I sing in the car, I sing when I’m home alone, and other appropriate and relatable venues. However, I also sing at work, at the grocery, and really whenever I feel the need –accompaniment being completely unnecessary. I grace the world with my average vocals because, sure, I enjoy it but I also believe in it. I believe in participating in music.

Singing has a cathartic quality, and it’s one that gets me from day to day. Finding that perfect song to embody your feelings and then proceeding to belt it like no one else exists is powerful.  Numerous studies demonstrate how singing reduces stress levels, benefits heart health, and causes many more positive effects on the physical body. Now I’m no doctor, but I believe that having a good jam session a day is far more beneficial than any apple.

I believe it because I witness the power of singing all the time. The best way to get my month-old niece to stop crying is to sing – it doesn’t matter if it’s coherent or on pitch. The best way to remember information is to put into a song – it doesn’t matter how long it’s been, once you know every word of a song, you know every word. And, most importantly, the best way to forget any and all worries is to sing – it doesn’t matter where or when. It has the simplest power to move and inspire, which is why I believe in singing.

…………………

GA TIB BOOK Molly SuggsMy name is Molly Suggs and I am senior Anthropology and Philosophy student at Texas Christian University. Originally from San Diego, California, I enjoy traveling to new places and experiencing cultures different from my own. After graduating in the spring, I am interested in pursuing the international non-profit world with hopes of moving and living abroad. And any free time I have is consumed with shameless and ridiculous singing.