Monday, August 15, 2011

The Acorn 6

The Old Mount Hermon Oak
Originally for the Meeting of the Congregation
January 24, 2010
by Teresa Franklin

I’m just getting to know Mount Hermon Church, and the way I would describe us today is probably different from the way I’ll describe the church a year from now when I know us better. And I think you have to know a church pretty well to be able to talk about its future. Therefore, my remarks today will be brief and general.

My impression of Mount Hermon is that it is like a tall, old oak tree with giant spreading branches, much like that biggest oak that stands just a few feet outside our front door. This old church is strong and stately, with roots that go deep in this community and the traditions of both the Presbyterian Church and the rural South. Mount Hermon exists as a single entity but is also a collection of individual parts which serve diverse functions and work together to nurture and sustain the whole. It is a living, growing body with newer leaves and branches and older trunk and roots. This church has dignity and a strong sense of itself – who it is and where it belongs.

The future we’ll share will grow out of who we are and what we’re about, as a church and as individuals. The future we’ll envision together, plan together, prepare for together and welcome together will have a strong connection to the church’s history and the identity which has developed over the past 127 years.

Mount Hermon Church is not an island. It is a tree standing in a community with which it interacts. What happens in Ila affects Mount Hermon, and what happens at Mount Hermon affects Ila and Madison County. It can’t help but, because we’re a part of each other. When a local family buries a loved one at Ila Cemetery, think of that family standing temporarily in the shade of the tall oak tree that is Mount Hermon Church. When they walk into our fellowship hall for finger sandwiches and cake after the graveside service, think of them lingering for a few moments under our sheltering and protective branches. In such a vision, church outreach need not be an imposing challenge, for we can see that our branches are expansive enough to welcome a few more souls seeking comfort and safe shelter from the trials of life.

Mount Hermon Church is not our building. Mount Hermon Church is us. It’s the people - a people with shared values, common roots, and a strong desire to continue to answer the call of God to minister in and to this community. I expect that this sense of identity is at the heart of what we’ll do together as we face the future. We’ll attempt to discern together the will of God for this ministry - this old oak tree standing strong and sure in the middle of Ila, Georgia.

A Reflection Along the Way
August 11, 2011
by Teresa Franklin

The old Mount Hermon oak is thriving. We’ve added some new growth on our branches in the past 18 months. Six baptisms – Jake Smith, Osley Brown, Jack Davis, Peter Faulkner, Jed May and Jake May – and two confirmations – Spencer Davis and Hannah May – have given us reason again and again to celebrate newness of life among us. And those of you who have been around for a while will notice from this list of names that much of our new growth is from long-established branches of the Mount Hermon tree. At the same time God is blessing our families with new generations, God is adding to the church new believers to whom we are responsible for providing guidance, nurture and leadership.

These are awesome responsibilities, and we dare not think that we can meet these obligations without concerted effort. Mount Hermon now has a youth group – six strong. The youth went rafting together on the Chattahoochee River July 28. They had a great time, sent the church a thank-you note for the trip, and are looking forward to attending the Presbytery’s Fall Youth Retreat in mid-October. It has been quite a few years since the old Mount Hermon oak has extended a branch toward Youth Retreat. Having active youth is stretching us to do things we haven’t done in a long time.

That’s okay; we’re a strong old tree. And God has allowed us to grow on this spot for almost 130 years for a reason: God’s mission on earth extends to the people of Madison County, Georgia – each and every one of them - young and old; rich and poor; educated and not; whether red, yellow, black, white, or brown. While our church is not responsible for reaching every one of them, we do have a responsibility to those for whom the old Mount Hermon oak is the tree in the grove through which God is calling them to faith and service.

May we continue to grow with God.