My Faith Journey with Sacred Talk

I was born in the late 1930s in rural America. It was a time when many people attended a church. My family were members of the Pilgrim Holiness tradition. We were not only people who attended church regularly, but we also took many measures to identify ourselves as Christians. We tried to live and practice our Christian faith all day and everyday. My father, mother, and my Uncle Marlin were all ministers in this tradition.

I was a very young girl when my sisters and I would play “church.” Drawing upon the words and behaviors of my preachers/parents, we would line up our dolls and teddy bears and I would often preach to them. Around the same age, while listening to another preacher speak at my father’s church, I was moved by the Holy Spirit and I took my first step towards accepting Jesus Christ as my
Savior. These early childhood experiences represented the first times I engaged in “Sacred Talk.”

Church and ministry were extremely common throughout my 1940s – 1950s upbringing. Church services occurred every Sunday and were largely attended by Pennsylvanians of German descent. Some, including my grandfather, would even speak their religious testimonies in Pennsylvania German. There were regular camp meetings or revival meetings that included missionaries or guest singers and these people represented different countries, ethnicities, races, and denominations. There were frequent prayer meetings and church social events which provided ample opportunity for informal conversations. I also regularly attended Sunday School and my Uncle Harry would eventually ask me to lead one of the Sunday School classes.

My parents also saw their ministry as something that went beyond church walls. We would hear stories about my mother’s time in Michigan including how she was part of a ministry for young, unwed, pregnant women living in that state. My siblings and I often accompanied my father as he visited with poor families who resided within our region. We would sing hymns, pray for their needs, my father would offer a short message, and then we simply spent time visiting and talking with them.

As a child or teenager I loved attending school, I took part in annual school plays, I played many games of softball, I enjoyed shopping trips with my family, and I valued the time I spent with my friends. My childhood and adolescence also included countless holy conversations that I had with my relatives at home. We talked about God, life, behavior, ethics, the Church, and our faith. My father would often be heard praying in our home, he would read some Scripture for us children before we went off to school in the morning, and he wasn’t shy about showing his tears and sadness for those he knew were hurting. My mother taught us how to sing as a “trio of sisters” for the church, she read many Bible stories to us, and we would see her prepare the sermons she would preach at various churches. As my sister, Miriam, would say she had “a good mix of faith blended with a generous dose of common sense and a dash of humor.” In each of these contexts – within our family, inside the church, and as we interacted with the world – life was filled with Sacred Talk.

As a young woman I decided to attend a bible college that was located in Eastern PA. It was here where I met my future husband, Arland, who was studying to become a minister. The classes themselves, the interactions I had with my fellow students, and the conversations I had in my courtship with Arland were further opportunities for me to engage in Sacred Talk.

The Sacred Talk continued as my life unfolded. Arland and I spent 50 years in ministry together, first as members of the Evangelical United Brethren and then we soon became part of the United Methodist Church. I frequently served as an active pastor’s wife who fulfilled many roles within our churches. I also attended seminary and would become a licensed pastor serving my own churches for 10 years. Collectively I heard or preached thousands of sermons, I led thousands of classes or study groups, and I sang or played countless hymns and songs. While Sacred Talk surrounded me through all of these “church” events, not all Sacred Talk occurred in these formal settings. Not by any means! In fact, some of the most meaningful moments in my life as a pastor, pastor’s wife, or pastor’s daughter were not behind the pulpit, at the Lord’s Supper, or when I was leading a Bible study or a Sunday School class; Sacred Talk unfolded while I simply visited with people. We talked about what they were experiencing in life, what they believed, and the questions they had. Sometimes it was lighthearted and fun, other times it was quite solemn or serious. But they were all conversations that discerned how we saw God, faith, or religion in their personal life, in the lives of their loved ones, and/or in their church, neighborhood, country or world. These encounters were real Sacred Talk.

These decades of parish ministry were also filled with time I spent with my parents, my own children and their families, and my five siblings and their families. Many members of my extended family are ministers, Christian educators, church musicians, or active lay leaders and members of their church. Some of them have formal training, degrees, or salutations next to their name (i.e. Reverend, Pastor, Doctor, Professor, etc.). Some others do not. But each and every one of them have their own unique experiences, ministries, and voices. Sometimes we meet in our homes, sometimes we meet collectively as an entire family clan, but we always spend considerable time engaged in Sacred Talk.