My Faith Story by Lauren Blackwell

Written by Lauren on the occasion of her election to serve as a Deacon beginning in August 2011

Many of you heard me share my cross-training story several months ago.  As you may recall, I spoke of having grown up in the church… starting out at the ripe age of 6 weeks old in the cradle roll department of Plain Dealing Baptist Church.  Within the walls of that church in Louisiana, and later in Nashville, I gained the foundation for my faith, but more important were the lessons and the foundation that I received at home from my parents.   Lessons of love, tolerance, justice, inclusiveness, and the courage to stand up to and speak out against hatred and injustice were taught to me each day through their living example.

Those lessons were reinforced throughout the early years of my journey and that foundation was strengthened.  However, there came a time when I became quite disillusioned with the church and organized religion for what I saw and experienced was in direct contrast to those early lessons.  Instead of openness, I saw a closed system that excluded based on gender, sexual identity, and in some cases, race.  So, I spent several years not being a part of a community of faith—I left church, but I did not leave my faith or my God.  I tried off and on through those years to re-connect, but never found a place where I fit or one that would embrace me as the person God created me to be.

So, a little over 10 years ago, it was with some skepticism on my part that Diane and I chose to return to church, due to the persistence of Libby Cunningham.  And we stayed… for within these stone walls we found that community for which I, we, had longed… a community that seeks to include, not exclude; a community that has the courage to stand up to and to speak out against hatred and injustice; a community that seeks to break down walls that divide; a community that is love and where all are embraced as a part of the family of God.

Tentatively, I became more involved within the life of Highland… Extended Session, Music ministry, Bible Study, Ministry groups and like so many others in this room, I have returned home.

So, as this next step of my faith journey continues, I am truly honored to have been asked to serve as your deacon within this thinking, feeling, healing, and loving community of faith.