I awoke on Sunday morning to the aroma of roast turkey and the bustle of the Crawford home in Riverview, Florida. Hattie. our hostess, is a grandmother, school teacher and preacher’s wife. This morning she ruled the kitchen to prepare the Crawford share of the communal noon meal. Eldon carved the turkey.
We arrived at the church in time for Walter to take his place at the piano to lead worship and direct the choir. Members and visitors filed through the door to fill the auditorium and be ready for a sermon by Senior Pastor Roy Williams.
Roy is well known in Tampa as a retired successful banker. He has served as moderator of the Mennonite Church USA. He confessed to having two men battling inside himself. One is a meticulous banker who looks for perfection in everyone and rejects flawed accounts. The other is the Jesus person who sees flaws and loves and accepts anyway.
Roy described the church as a children’s church in the beginning. Now it is made up of adults. Membership includes doctors, lawyers, a school principal, etc. The church is like an emergency room. Broken people come to it. Many leave after being helped, but others choose to stay and join the staff of healers. Some recalled the songs they had been taught as children with the motions that went with the songs, like “Deep and wide, deep and wide, there’s a fountain flowing deep and wide.” At the communal lunch I ate with several women. As we got to know each other we shared some of our more personal stuff. They laughed heartily when I told them I had a special friend who was my Joy. I said to one of them, let’s take a picture that will make My Joyce jealous. (I knew she would not be jealous.)
After the fellowship meal Eldon, Rachel and I took a sentimental tour of Tampa. We drove past our Ida St. and Wilder Ave. homes. If you would like to see a google map view of the Ida St. Church as it is now click here. It was the first structure built by Mennonites in the Southeast. Notice that a ramp for wheelchairs has been added. The oak tree is still in the front yard of the little house (now blue) which was our home for the first ten years in the South. We also drove down 9th Ave. which had been the home of the Ybor City Mennonite Church and Sharon School. To see the structures that have replaced those facilities click here. Our sentimental journey ended with a visit to my nephew, John Dennis Lehman and a return to Sarasota.