When David asked me to share with you some of the reasons I’m so devoted to this church, I had my doubts. How to abbreviate almost 80 years into a few minutes was going to be tough, but I decided to tap into the passionate side (as David puts it) of my persona and share a few incidences that make this church, this Bethel, my faith community home and, indeed, an emerging pillar of Beaverton society. Let me give you a wee bit of my family history.
My mother, at 11 months in age and having lost her own mother to the Spanish Influenza epidemic of 1917, was raised by the Designers who were next door neighbors and two of the original members of this church. They were also parents to 3 boys and 1 girls of their own. The family then was my mother’s initial introduction to Bethel Congregational Church. It was firmly and indelibly impressed upon her that attending church each Sunday was not elective, but mandatory. And even after Grandma and Grandpa’s death, Aunt Katherine (their only daughter) saw to it that this practice continued non-stop! Aunt Katherine herself attended and was an active member of Bethel until her death in 1979. And I still have the Bible presented to my mother upon her “graduation” from Bethel Congregational’s Sunday School in 5th grade.
I remember attending Bethel Sunday School in the 1940’s and not knowing, having no idea really, what the nickel that Aunt Katherine had tied so securely in my hanky was really for. I was told that it was my tithe for the church. What was a tithe? All I knew was that this coin was to be placed in the wooden replica of the Big Bethel building during Sunday school class. This was my tithe, my offering. This helped our church. Sunday School and the church classes were the greatest. Our teens were numerous. They thrived and always looked forward to the interaction afforded them through the Pilgrims Fellowship Program. I recall the numerous trips we made to the migrant camps with Amarette Barnes to help in any way we could. Wendell Pike and Larry Matson were also participants in this great group and oh the tales we could tell. My basic knowledge of the Bible and its relevance to life and my role as a member of a community were formulated here at Bethel.
My husband was baptized here. And when The Reverend Dr John Whiteneck placed the holy water on Lon’s balding pate, we often mused that if that didn’t grow hair then nothing would. Both our children attended regularly and were confirmed here.
I can look back on the days with nostalgia and now fully understand with utmost clarity (clarity that only seems to arise with old age), the reasons for supporting my church. It is my faith home. It is my faith community. True, when you think of the word community you think of your surroundings, the homes, stores, businesses, libraries, and parks. But you must realize that to have a community, a viable and thriving community, you have to start with one individual. YOU!
A faith community offers balm for the oppressed, sanctuary for the discarded and misunderstood of our society, support for the for the discriminated and disabled, care, compassion and comfort in times of seemingly unresolved troubles that life had dealt, education, an opening to others who need these bastions, and an opportunity to enlighten those searching for answers. And aren’t we all searchers, seekers of the truth?
One of the most important reasons that I, Diane Imel, love this church so much is that Bethel was with my family when we plumbed the deepest darkest depth of despair. If not for the heart and soul of the people of this church, I might still be floundering, trying to find some reason, some answer, anything to ease the questioning hurt that we felt after the killing of our 13 year old son Kevin. Bethel, this community was here, not necessarily with acceptable answers, but with actions that said that “We are here. We are here with you. We are here for you. We are alongside you. We offer solace. Let us comfort you.” This extraordinary outpouring of love was repeated again and again when my daughter was diagnosed with cancer, her husband shortly thereafter, and then the death last February of my fantastic husband of almost 57 years. You were and are the glue, the duck tape that holds this Lady Di together.
I am so proud that we are a church of action, putting into operation what we so strongly advocate. Working side by side at Faith Café feeding the hungry with food, words, a touch, an open heart. Marching, and in my case sitting, for truth and equity at the Peace Vigils! Rubbing elbows, exchanging quips and barbs at the God’s Great Rummage Sale! Filling food bags for Beaverton’s homeless youth! Being enlightened and educated and laughing uproariously on many occasions in the Adult Conversation Class (the pre-church chit chat if you will). Yes, we are a church of forward actions.
I’ve met some my dearest and most valued friends here in this Faith Community. I’ve reaped the hugs and smiles of many, if not all, of the youngsters and chickapens, and I’ve been educated by the tweens and teens. I’ve gleaned and taken from almost each and every one of you, and I have loved and do love you in return. I hope I may continue to do so for many years to come.
Reasons for my support and deep love are numerous and I’ve cited but a few of the many.
Bethel has been a driving force, a constant in my life, and I will continue to support her as I am able!