It was the yearly church fishing trip, and it was quite exclusive. My uncle, the pastor, gave up on trying to teach me the right catfishing technique. As I started to cry, Rev. Tate took me aside, and she worked with me for hours. She first taught me that the best thing I could do was quit talking. After each of these fishing trips, my uncle would back up his truck to the cast iron kettle in the field, light a fire, heat the oil and cook the catfish. For years I stood by his side as his associate while he cooked the fish to perfection. It seemed to be another form of worship for him.
In 2018, I had Christmas with what was then my future extended family. They, too, love a good fish fry, but it’s not catfish they eat; it’s crappie. As I stood there next to the patriarch of the family, Pops, and my future father-in-law, Craig, my heart begin to palpitate, recognizing a lot of things in my life had changed since my time of being the associate fish fryer with my uncle. I thought of the differences between the two: You don’t fish for the two types of fish the same way, they don’t taste the same, and everyone has a preference about exactly how the batter must taste. But as I looked at Mr. Lott and Pops enjoying their tradition, I instantly became thankful that they allowed me into this sacred moment with them. No longer did it feel like everything was changing in my life, but it began to feel more like things were simply being added.
We can look back on this past year and think of all the ways our church and congregation have changed. That may be the easiest way to respond to the past year. But we also have an opportunity to consider these changes as beautiful additions working for our good. The beauty and bounty of new members who have joined our congregation. The additions of Charlie Fuller, Ariel Merivil, Katie Murray, Haley Robinson and Glenda Williams to our staff. The commitments we have vowed to add to our spiritual life and community.
As we approach the new year, with reflection on the days, weeks and months that have passed in 2023, may we boldly rejoice in the traditions and additions that continue to form and shape our identity as Wilshire Baptist Church. So, in the words of the song we’ll sing in just a bit: “O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant … O come, let us adore him” in the holiest and best ways we can as beloved children of God.