From as much a home as I know:
Home...Hamilton...the words are a little synamous in my mind! I lived there for 14 years - 4 as a child while my dad preached there, 10 as the blessed minister of the Hamilton church. It's longer than anywhere I've ever lived in my life! Both my sons were baptized in that city. They hired a young kid (how foolish on their part but what a blessing it was to me), aged 24 to work with one of the best known churches in North Alabama and one of the strongest small town churches in our brotherhood. They were patient with me and better to me than I ever deserved. I've always been proud to say that I was associated with the Hamilton Church of Christ. Hamilton is where Maywood Christian Camp is - I've been a part of Maywood longer than any other continual influence in my life. I've served as a camper, worker, dish washer, counselor, director and now board member at that place. I got my first "real" kiss there and I first held Melanie's hand there.
Hamilton: It is home! If I died today it's where I'd want to be buried. And now I consider an honor to be back. This week I'm preaching a meeting there. And, it's been like being at home.
My first year with the church was my hardest of ministry. Comparisons, problems, leadership, all were constant frustrations. I made so many mistakes but they loved me anyway and took me into their hearts and for that this place will always have a special place in my heart. When I'm here it's like I am in my element - it seems I know everyone and have ties special ties with everyone here. I have fought back the tears every time I've stood up to preach this week. I love these people...this place.
That's the blessing of ministry. Being a part of people's lives in the highs and lows, funerals and wedding, disasters and victories. Over a lifetime. A lifetime. A common lifetime.
I don't think I could ever move back - as Melanie says, "we're at a different place in our lives and things would be different now." I'm sure she's right but I still get homesick now and then.
Ted Burlseon is the wonderful, godly man who now occupies this pulpit. And they love he and his wife Karen here. Our lives have intersected with Ted's often through the years. His son Doug worked along side me at Granny White and Melanie and I grew to love he and Kristie. His son David was roommates for a year with my two sons at FHU. And now we share this bond. Ted's maturity, wisdom and experience are leading a renewal in this congregation and I thrill with him and them.
None of this is to imply that I didn't love GW. Moving to Nashville was a blessing to every one of us and I don't regret that for a moment and working with Granny White - well, it's Granny White! What more could I say - what a place. And now to be at Spring Meadows - I have never enjoyed a work more than I am enjoying this one. What is happening there is unbelievable and I am growing to love that place more and more every day. It is Hamiltonish. The energy, life, vitality and spirit of Spring Meadows is unlike anything I've ever seen. The unity and direction, the vision and love - what more could I say? Each are special and have a piece of my heart.
I simply must say - God is good!
END NOTE: Our Andrew worked with this church last summer and is slated to be back this summer. I don't know of any other church that has been good enough to allow three generations from the same family to minister with them.