Saturday, January 01, 2005


Here I'll call her Sharon, but that's not her real name. She teaches one of the children in our church how to ride horses, and one day that child asked her, "Where do you go to church?"

She didn't have an answer to satisfy herself much less that child, and has found herself at our church as a result. That's been a good thing. She, like I was not that long ago, was unchurched and curious. She attends Sunday school regularly, which is really a measure of spiritual intent in many ways. She asks questions without fear that people will laugh at her lack of knowledge because the people in the class have had or do have those same questions.

I mention Sharon on this New Years Day for only one reason: Amy doesn't deal with death well.

I suppose no one does, but those of us who experienced great loss early and often in our lives have found ways to stare at the inevitable grim prospect of losing loved ones out of only the corner of our eyes, so that our focus can be our lives...and living.

2004 was a hard year in terms of people dying and it ended in the worst of ways, with news that Steve Johnston, a long time friend of Amy's and a former minister at her home church in Ohio died suddenly during a New Year's Eve 5k run. He was only a year or two older than I am. Amy had lunch with his wife when she was in Ohio only a few months ago.

His death brought back the crush of fear that Amy carries with her that one day she will lose a parent, or me, or some close family member...something she has been blessed not to have experienced in her entire life. I've assured her I'm planning to stick around...most days she's in agreement with that plan. I've also reminded her that death is inevitable for us all and our faith is what we cling to in those hard times.

I had met Steve on a handful of occasions but certainly did not know him well, yet his death and my discussions with Amy today led me to thoughts of legacies.

Steve, to my knowledge, had never been to San Antonio. He had certainly never been to Covenant Baptist Church, nor met Gordon our Pastor...but, to the knowledge of neither, his legacy resides within both.

Over the course of helping our little church community grow we've had many a discussion and in the past few years Amy and I had been rather vocal about the need to change the way we handled adult Sunday school.

In addition to having a more self-led adult Sunday school class we laughingly refer to as the, "Cynics and Mystics", Amy and I and others saw a need for a more traditional bible study...with a teacher.

That's where I met Steve Johnston. He taught such a class at a church in Ohio. I'm usually of the mind to skip Sunday school when in Ohio but I went to Steve's class, because I enjoyed it. He was a great teacher. It was a fun class where I learned things about God and it was the example Amy and I used repeatedly when leaders of Covenant met to discuss our church.

As a result of those discussions, for the past couple of years Gordon has been teaching an adult Sunday school class. It's certainly not the same as Steve's, because it's Gordon teaching. Yet I've found, and I think Gordon has realized, that he has a true talent for such teaching and the people in his class are folks who weren't coming to Sunday school at all before. In my mind at least, it's been an unqualified success.

So there is Steve Johnston's legacy to me. A man I met maybe a half dozen times, but whose influence spread through Amy and I to San Antonio and changed the way we do Sunday school.

Now a woman named Sharon who would never have felt comfortable in Sunday school any place else perhaps is learning about God. She's being taught by a man with an honest yet questioning faith and is in the company of a community of seekers.

This is how God works. We don't often see it so plainly.

God bless you taught us well.