I found my Tabernacle home on a rainy weekday morning in 2002. My children were grown, my husband had recently died, and I had sold the large home I couldn’t afford to keep. I moved to an apartment in the city and was looking for a new church. I was walking on Grove Avenue when I saw the beautiful old stone building at the intersection of Meadow and Grove. As I crossed Meadow, a car pulled over to the curb in front of the church and stopped. A man jumped out of the car, grabbed an armload of envelopes and packages, and hurried through the sprinkling rain, precariously balancing his load as he rushed up a ramp and stopped to unlock the door. On impulse, I followed him and caught up with him as he finally got the door open. I introduced myself to Byron LePere and asked if I could come and see the church. He led me inside, gave me a brief tour of the Sanctuary, gave me a handout about the church and invited me to come to church the next Sunday. He hurried off, leaving me to sit there a little while soaking up a feeling of permanence and safety and a strange feeling of home.
The next Sunday, I attended the morning service and got my first dose of Tabernacle family. Ladies from the church greeted me warmly following the service and invited me to attend Sunday School the following week. When I returned the next week, early enough for Sunday School, I was steered by one of the ladies to the WWW class. After class I found I had annoyed a member of the Ruth Class because she said she had asked me to her class first. I was embarrassed, but my apology was accepted, and I felt welcomed by all.
When I heard about refugees coming to Richmond, being the nosy person I am, I attended a meeting to learn more this opportunity. By then, I had brought my daughter, Alicia, and her family to visit Tabernacle, and we both wanted to help. Alicia helped with transportation, job applications, school enrollment, lots of important things. I got the fun part—making sure the younger children of one family had someone to meet them when they got home from school and stay with them until the older sisters came home from their school. Meanwhile, the mother of the family was able to work. We have been blessed to know this family and many others who have so much to teach us.
One of the things I love most about Tabernacle is its diversity–not only the people from other countries, but the long-time members who keep the golden days in the life of the church fresh in our minds, while constantly looking toward the future; the college students who worship with us while they learn and grow into their place in God’s plan; those who are served by the food pantry and clothes closet ministries and those who make those ministries possible; the young families with all the promise they hold for the future; the retirees, the musicians, the kitchen crew, the church staff, the strangers who wander in. There is a place for everyone and everyone is encouraged to share their ideas and talents (everyone has some).
– Charlotte Wright
My prayer for Tabernacle:
My hope is that we will retain our family atmosphere and that we continue to laugh and love each other as we make better use of our physical space and that we strengthen our spiritual space. My prayer is for the leaders who will guide us in this journey, that God will grant them wisdom.