By Aaron Burkhalter
Recently, Pastor Ned shared that Seattle First Baptist Church was a model example for other churches trying to create a “home.”
It’s built into the infrastructure of this building, in a spiritual sense. It’s a place we all come together and feel at home.
It’s appropriate for me to feel home at a church on the hill in Seattle. Interestingly enough, Seattle First Baptist is the second building on this hill where I felt so at home. The other place was just a dozen blocks away.
For years, my grandfather, Rev. Allan Curtis Parker Jr., was the rector at Trinity Parish. He was the last priest to live in the rectory next door, a four-story house (including the basement and attic) in the heart of the city.
When I was a kid, my family lived in Oklahoma. But we’d come up to Seattle just about every other year and spend nearly a month at that rectory. My brothers and cousins ran up and down the curving stairwells, weaved scary tales of the ghosts that surely lived in the attic and had childhood warfare across the postage-stamp of a front yard and the courtyard in the church next door.
Oklahoma was rough for my family. Every Christmas, we had a toast: “Next year in Seattle.” While we maintained a lot of dear friends who we’re still in contact with today, it was clearly not where we were meant to be.
At that old rectory, we breathed deeper than anywhere else. That’s what home is to me: the place where you’re lungs can actually fill to capacity.
After my grandpa died, I thought a lot about what it was that made that home such a special place, why I still walk by it just to stand and remember the time I spent there.
I remembered a conversation we had when I was younger, maybe 8 or 10 years old at the time. I was racing down the staircase and my grandpa asked me how I was doing. Just this once, he was standing in the entryway of the home with a cane in his hand (not sitting in his armchair swearing like a sailor at whatever he was reading in The New York Times) and he asked how I was doing.
I said “I’m good.”
He said, “Of course! You’re very good. It says so in the Bible.”
Now… I had three brothers and all kinds of peers at churches who liked to tease me about my story in the Bible. See… Aaron was the older brother of Moses. You know… the one who built the golden calf. I knew that wasn’t the person you wanted to be.
“It doesn’t say that I’M good in the Bible,” I replied, not only because of Aaron’s story, but because I knew that there was nothing so specifically about me in that ancient text.
Grandpa He banged his can against the ground as he countered (not unkindly):
“IT DOES say you’re good in the Bible. In Genesis 1:31!”
And, of course, he recited it from memory (using the RSV version here, as my Grandpa would have at this time, it being the standard version in the Episcopal Church): “God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.”
I’ve got two definitions of home. One, as I mentioned, is the place where your lungs can fill to capacity. The other is this: The place where you are recognized just as you were created, as a being who is “very good.”
It’s appropriate that I would land yet again at a church home on this hill. I travel here every Sunday to a place that feels at home. I’ve traveled to this hill many times to feel at home, from as far as Oklahoma.
This blog includes thoughts from various contributors at Seattle First Baptist