Written by Suzanne on the occasion of her election to serve as a Deacon beginning in August 2011
I was born in the tiny town of Rhinebeck, New York, only 75 miles from The City but, in its bucolic, conservative atmosphere, a world away. Our family of five moved to Lexington when I was seven, as my dad was transferred to the new IBM plant. We lived on a farm, across from what is now the Kentucky Horse Park, and attended Mt. Horeb Presbyterian Church just down the road. My spiritual walk was nurtured there with the active witness of my mom. She was involved serving as a deacon and go-to person. I remember folks saying in response to a need, “Let’s get Mary Bailey on that!”
I graduated from Maryville College (TN) in 1972 and came to Louisville for my first teaching position. The following year I married and we raised three fabulous children here, attending the Catholic church of his faith. I look back on my questioning and growth in issues of peace and social justice as inextricably tied to my years in Catholicism. About eleven years ago my steady life with the “white picket fence” detonated when the marriage ended.
Reeling from the stunning lack of support from my church home, and worrisome health issues, I stepped out to explore other local churches. I was seeking sanctuary, community, and inspiration as I visited small churches, medium churches, and one really gigantic one! Then, in July of 2005, I visited the Highland Friday night service. It was still in the cramped upper room, barely able to contain the vibrant, embracing love within it. The service kept drawing me back; it was meeting so many needs.
Later that winter I began attending Sunday services. I found them to be so meaningful, with a transcendent peace, yet still very challenging for my spirit. I hungrily grasped at what this thinking, feeling, and healing community of Highland could offer me (And maybe… I could offer something back?)
Highland Baptist Church is not a building or a list of members. I see Highland as a vision expressed in action and sharing. I experience folks here who are awakened to the call of God. They are connected to our world on so very many levels: local, national and global. I witness servants who lead and leaders who serve. There is a refreshing lack of entrenched dogmatism. Rather, I think Highland radiates entrenched kindness.
The greatest personal growth I have experienced at Highland is in moving toward a more forgiving spirit. Working through painful issues of my past has caused me to give distance to vanity, from enlarged sense of myself, yet away from timidity, when I would remain too small to grow. I thank God, and the folks at Highland, that I am moving to a place between these two extremes.
My prayer life is expanding as I experience beautiful words and beautiful works here. The baby dedications are exquisite prayers. The ministries of Renee, Carol, Emily, David, Kathy, Nina, and Joe and others inspire us. The music of the choir, orchestra, Austin, and others lifts the spirit and stirs the soul. What I experience in my wondrous Bible study community, the Generations class, continually reinforces God’s transforming love, as well as providing crazy moments of hysterical laughter.
I heard a speaker on the radio refer to the following quotation. While I don’t know the author, I do believe it characterizes the loving spirit I witness at Highland: God created each one of us as individual, irreplaceable works of art. Our time on this earth, therefore, is a course in art appreciation.