We discovered Parkway about the same time Parkway had gotten ready to discover us. We returned to St Louis in the winter of 2006. Our first morning in our new home we couldn’t get out of the driveway because of snow, but by noon the snow was gone.
We didn’t know that was an omen.
We still don’t know anything close to what it means, except for freezing and melting. Getting back to St Louis, where we both grew up, went to the same high school, and dated in high school and college; getting back here was the hard part. Both of us left more or less in our teens for different elsewheres, sometimes in the same state (California) but not in the same colleges or marriages.
From these marriages we have four children, three living on the coasts and one in Memphis. Both our marriages were problematic from the start; but we each felt it our duty to make them work. We had grown up Presbyterian and Lutheran, and married people from Christian backgrounds but practices different from our own. We stopped going to church regularly during our first marriages. We told ourselves, as many did then, “we’re spiritual, not religious.” But Christian shaping played a role in the jobs we both started out in—teaching, and we both shared the social justice concerns formulated so sharply in the late 60s.
Since leaving St Louis we had kept in occasional touch, mostly through third parties. By the 1990’s our first marriages were long ago over. Through a few chance phone calls, we decided to meet up together, and the experience was earthshaking:
Mary was visiting two of her kids in Los Angeles, where I lived, and before she could get to my side of town the Northridge Earthquake struck (magnitude 6.7), That seemed an omen too and before we knew it we were together in Los Angeles until, after some years, Mary persuaded me I had to retire—for many years I had not been teaching but writing proposals for an aerospace company. We wanted to get out of too big, too busy Los Angeles, and we came home, where we have learned that you can come home again.
Living in St Louis for the first time in over 40 years, we started taking Tom’s mother to Christ Lutheran in Webster. We decided we wanted to look for a church for ourselves. We went to various churches, but more UCC than anything—I think because of the combination of politics and worship.
Tom had read UCC writers before knowing anything about UCC in particular. He ran into an Eden professor at the gym, who invited him to a class at Eden. Responding to the PUCC sign (was that the omen?), we attended PUCC services when Margaret Phillips, filling in for Pastor Kevin, was raining fiery justice from the pulpit.
Soon we learned how Kevin’s natural gift for communing with God could help us, too, to “live in prayer.” Kevin has also nurtured in us a desire to live more meaningfully for ourselves and others.
We soon got to know Dick and Florence Simonson, Mary Jo and Jamie Cannon, Pam Watkins-Walker, Sue Stolze, and others —a real large lot of kindness and dedication.
The decision to join Parkway soon afterwards reflected our roles with each other: Tom looks around a lot, but never decides; Mary sees and says “yes” or “no.”
On our ride home from an early visit to Parkway, Mary talked about joining and I saw a Methodist church and said “well, a short while ago I didn’t know much about UCC or PUCC. I don’t know anything about Methodists. Should we look at that church.?”
Mary said, “No. Look at the parking lot—it’s full, and huge. I think Parkway needs us.”
And we have found that we need Parkway even more.
We’ve found personal solace and deep compassion for all here, through meaningful friendships and activities that suit our personalities—centering prayer, choir, bible study, community outreach, and opportunities for artistic and spiritual expression.
That’s how we said “Yes” to Parkway.