Pour yourself an ice cold glass of lemonade and settle into your favorite chair. It is time for another story. This summer, we are enjoying a series called “Saint Luke Stories” featuring stories of how various members of our community found their way to Saint Luke and why they call it home. We have heard stories from Marie & Jennifer, as well as Ian.
This week's story comes from Thelma Jacks. Thelma is the chair of the HR team, and also volunteers as a greeter and counter.
Its been said that life is not about the destination, but the journey. Perhaps it should go on to say that it is about those who travel by our side. For Thema Jacks, affectionately known as TJ, her journey to Saint Luke is a tale of friendship.
TJ and her dear friend, Susan Saxer, have been friends for almost 40 years. Together, they have seen a lot of life. Their friendship has weathered the changing seasons and has included many adventures. While they have various things in common, one thing has bonded them in a unique way—their faith. For years, they dreamed about attending church together, getting to worship side by side and enjoy the same faith community. However, it never seemed to work out. TJ laughs as she explains their dilemma saying, “Well, we could never figure out how a Baptist and a Presbyterian could go to church together.” Yet their friendship was deeper than denominations and about nine years ago, they began to visit churches together. Sometimes Susan would join TJ at a Baptist Church and other times TJ would join Susan at a Presbyterian or Episcopal Church. Then, Susan stumbled across a church located near her home that she had not visited. The church was Saint Luke Lutheran Church. She attended one Sunday and after worship she called TJ. Recalling their conversation, TJ explained, “She called me and said, ‘Why don’t you come over and see if you like this church?’ And I did and we’ve both been here ever since.”
It was late spring when TJ visited to Saint Luke and her first experience was bursting with signs of life just like the season. She had a wonderful first impression of the church. She explained, “The first person that I met was Donna Daly, and if you know Donna, she is a very gracious and welcoming host and she formed my first impression of the church itself.” Not only did TJ find the people of Saint Luke to be warm and welcoming, but she also found the worship service to be engaging. Coming from a Baptist tradition that did not embrace women in leadership roles, TJ found Saint Luke to be very refreshing. During her teenage years TJ had digressed from those teachings regarding gender and leadership after attending a church where there were female ministers. Yet her experience at Saint Luke was the first time she had been to a church were there was a white female minister. As she saw Pastor Sue teach, she was particularly taken by not only her message but also her delivery. TJ said, “It helped seal my fate with becoming a Saint Lukan.”
After that first Sunday, Saint Luke became TJ’s church and her dear friend Susan’s church as well. Finally, their journey had brought them to the same place of worship. TJ shared, “The first time I came I made up my mind. I said, “Ok, if this is the church you want to go, it is also the church Ill go to, because I like this!” TJ began attending worship regularly and began to volunteer, helping rake the church yard periodically. As time passed, she and Susan embarked on another adventure together as they began to co-chair the social ministry team. Since then, TJ has served in various capacities and participated in many programs. She is grateful for all that Saint Luke has added to her life, particularly the ways that it continues to help her renew her faith and grow in trusting God and His plans for her life.
Yet, it has not always been an easy journey. As with all journeys, there are some bumps along the way. TJ reflected on her previous church experiences saying, “As I was trying to work my way through my Baptist tradition, I would have questions and sometimes the questions were answered in a way that made me feel guilty about not particularly measuring up.” Carrying that with her to Saint Luke, she was pleasantly surprised by what she found. She continued sharing, “What Saint Luke and Lutheranism has done is it has helped me to shed the shackles of guilt around questioning. Questioning is not doubt, but a process by which I learn more and become more steeped in my faith.” Her journey has been one of faith and questions, serving and being blessed, friendship and diversity.
As TJ describes Saint Luke, it is the church’s servant heart, welcoming attitude, and ability to create an environment in which you can be inquisitive and searching that rises to the top of her list. She is so proud to be a part of a church where all are welcome, no exceptions. She sees this radical welcome of Jesus being lived out at Saint Luke in many ways. She loves that at Saint Luke children are valued. The Children’s sermon is actually one of her favorite parts of worship each week. Her joy is evident as she explains, “Sometimes we can intellectualize and think about our faith and trust in God so much that it becomes overly complicated. When I hear the Children’s sermon, I can really relate to the simplistic way in which the parables and teachings of Christ are related to the children and how they should relate to me, even though I am a thousand years older than the kids themselves!”
Similarly, the Rejoicing Spirits program is especially close to her heart. Rejoicing Spirits is a monthly joy-filled worship service for children and adults with developmental disabilities, their families, friends, caregivers, and the Saint Luke family. TJ who has attended the program with her nephew finds that it includes “a fairly simplistic way of teaching about love, Christ, and servant hearts for people that may be intellectually different than I am.” Attendees not only get the opportunity to worship, but they find friendship with others. She explains, “I think that is one of the equally as important programs and activities of the church, especially since we are looking towards that notion of diversifying our community, reaching out to people who are different than we are.”
At Saint Luke, you can simply be you. Baptist, Presbyterian, Lutheran or none of the above. Any age. Any gender. Any ethnicity. Any intellectual or physical ability. Full of faith or full of questions. You will find what TJ has discovered- you are welcome here.