It’s Sunday morning, and as families gather in the pews, Mike Ferguson and his young daughters Ellery and Baker are among them. “Ferg,” as everyone calls him, has been bringing the girls to church since they were very small, sharing prayer books and hymnals with them so they learn the patterns of our worship.
“The routine and structure of church was paramount in my life growing up,” says Ferg, “so when I first started coming to St. Michael’s, I mostly was doing it because it was ‘what I was supposed to do.’” His wife didn’t grow up in a household where church was a part of her life, so Mike knew if he wanted his girls to know church life the way he experienced it, it was going to be his responsibility.
More than 400 families with children make St. Michael’s their spiritual home. But why? As part of our “Whole Life” year-long project, we asked a few of our families why they chose our parish, and what brings them back each week with their children.
“Kristen and I both grew up going to church but wandered away after going to college,” says Will Lingo, who was senior warden of the Vestry last year. Members since 2007, the Lingos, like many, were prompted to return to church life when their children Joe and Kate came along. “Even then we weren’t sure what church had to offer us,” Will says, “seeing most as either too close-minded and rigid on one extreme or so touchy-feely and wishy-washy on the other. The first time at St. Michael’s, Greg mocked the “Left Behind” book series in his sermon. I knew we were home.”
Ferg saw his “single parenting” church as an opportunity to spend time with his daughters alone. “What started off as a ‘need to go’ to church has evolved into a ‘want to go to church,’” he says.
Many parents raising children in challenging times hope bringing them to church will give them the tools they need to handle the world they face. “We both think that our kids are better people than we were when we were that age,” says Will, “and St. Michael’s has had a lot to do with that.” The Lingo kids are acolytes and part of the Youth program. “Our kids, having been immersed in St. Michael’s for as long as they can remember, have a much better idea about who God is and what faith is than we did.”
Lyn Adkins and her family felt welcomed with open arms when they first came to St. Michael’s with their children. “(Husband) Thayer loved the fact that Greg went to Carolina and they share the same birthday.” Lyn grew up in the Episcopal Church but was a confessed “Chreaster,” going only on high holy days. At St. Michael’s, she was drawn by what our parish offered, particularly for children. “I wanted to raise a family where we individually and collectively felt at home in the same church.”
The Adkinses have found “a place of comfort, peace, faith, community and a spiritual leader we could relate to,” she says.
The whole Lingo family takes part in the full life of the parish. Kristen, who serves on the Youth Education Committee and a as lay reader. She will soon be a small group facilitator.
“Whatever we have given to St. Michael’s, St. Michael’s has more than given back to us,” says Will, “just like our relationship to God. Becoming part of St. Michael’s has made us better parents and better people and part of that is just thinking much more purposefully about what the real message of Christianity is and trying to live through that on a daily basis.”
“Developing and nurturing my daughters’ understanding of Christianity is paramount,” says Ferg, “but it’s really so much more. Church has taught them ritual, and tradition and history. Choir gives them confidence and joy and companionship with children outside of their daily neighborhood and school routine. It may not all make sense to them now, but it’s soaking in by osmosis if nothing else.
“The time I spend with them during the worship service is something I treasure beyond words,” Ferg adds. “The chance to sing with my daughters, to read with them, to pray with them, without distraction is a blessing I will always be thankful for. Just to sit there and hold their hands, in silence. It’s not replaceable or reproducible anywhere else in my life.
“As my children age,” Ferg says, “so does their curiosity as to why we go without their mom. I’m curious as to how that will evolve. Will their love of church inspire my wife to want to be a part of their experience? I don’t know, but I’m sure someone does!”