Good morning! I am Ben Kenny, 8:30 keyboard noodler and 10:30 balcony dweller. I have been asked to share my testimony. I will try to be mercifully brief and stick to the script.
I grew up in the suburbs of Baltimore, and while I was doing that, God looked out for me by blessing me with two things. First, parents who got me out of bed and off to church most Sunday mornings, even if it was a Presbyterian church full of Calvinists. And second, some good and close friends who actually cared about my faith. I recall one weekend when we were off on a youth retreat along the beach in Ocean City, Md., and the program, as well as my roommates, really got me thinking about my beliefs, to the point that the following week, I invited God and His Son into my life. I think that because of this teenage stage of my life being such a turning point, that helped lead me to teach high schoolers here in Sunday School for something like 15 years. And those roommates at the retreat have remained good friends of mine and supporters ever since – both involved in ministry.
Jumping ahead six years, I was out of college and grad school at The Ohio State University, and about to start a new job in a small town 100 miles north of Columbus that I had never heard of, called Norwalk. I interviewed for a job on a Thursday in late August, and I sensed that the interview was going well when about five questions in, they asked “Can you start Monday?” I tore back to Baltimore in my ’66 VW Beetle, loaded all my earthly belongings into the car – imagine fitting everything you own in a VW today – , and headed back to Ohio over the weekend. Not knowing a soul in this town, I moved into a third floor apartment on 107 E. Main St., where the landlady informed me a nice young teacher had just moved in on the first floor. The nice young teacher was Linda, we began hanging out at romantic spots like Connie’s Laundromat, and the following May we were married.
I include this in my testimony because I believe it is one of the most powerful examples of God’s work in my life. And the miracles have continued with two kids and four grandchildren (and counting…)
We attended a couple other churches in town before settling here at First United Methodist, where we have attended since the Bill Grant era, around 1993. Just as God brought me to Norwalk and to Linda, I believe He brought us to this church. And if I could pass on one lesson from my time here, it would be that you truly get more out of an experience, a project, or a voluntary task than you put into it. I think LaMar hit on this point last week. Every task has brought a treasure, every bit of business a blessing. While I believe the purpose of the praise band, “Give ‘em Heaven”, for example, is to bring people closer to God, I have to admit that it has been an absolute joy hanging out up there with Dale, Barb, Carol, Jen, Roxanne, Deb, and Tera, not to mention the great and treasured times with Tom and Jesse Phillips, Jake Gilson, Alex Roberts, Sarah Christophel, Doc on the Drums, and others including my son William.
As another example, we were also able to turn a difficult experience – Linda’s bout with breast cancer about 14 years ago – into a positive by getting involved with our Relay for Life team, the Methodist Marchers, sponsored, supported, and prayed for generously by you, the members of this church.
I would add that when, like Linda and me, you are not from these parts, you work in other towns, and your kids have moved on, a church home and your church family can have added meaning and importance. It truly feels like home here.
So to conclude, with apologies to David Letterman, here are my Top Ten quick reasons that draw us to Norwalk First United Methodist Church, week after week.
10. We very rarely have to fight off squatters in our balcony seats, although we sometimes concede the first row to the Harris triplets, and we’re fine with that. It’s like reserved seating on Sunday mornings! Your pew is just waiting for you.
9. As I said, I had the honor of teaching and learning from dozens of high school kids over the years teaching Sunday School. They kept me young and on my toes. They are an amazing asset to the church.
8. Eating awesome food – I mean we’re talking Methodists here! – after Unity services, at community meals on third Mondays, and every Wednesday when First Kids is in session. This church is blessed with some amazing and sharing cooks, dishwashers, and clean-up crews!
7. Speaking of First Kids, it’s great just picking up on the energy in the room when those kids are in it. Wednesday evening is a special time in this church.
6. This building, the architecture – this place is special. And we have reached a time when it needs special care, some T.L.C; our stewardship, in order to reach some financial goals and afford some badly needed improvements.
5. The music: Our choir, Chantal at the piano, the bells, Carol Phillips directing, and Carol Schubert on the organ. The choir was one of the blessings that stood out and drew us to this church.
4. This was a wonderful place for our kids as they grew up. Our son, William, especially, made good friends here, friends he still sees on a regular basis. Now we love bringing the grandchildren, and we offer a blanket apology for the random noises, past and future, emanating from the vicinity of our balcony seats.
3. At Church Council meetings, I am humbled by all the good things going on, the many missions of this church, and the good people leading the charge. This church has always provided us with spiritual leaders who faithfully serve and set the bar for many of us. And a full description of everything that goes on here or because of this church and our partners would be too long to list here.
2. A Pastor who brings us new insight into God’s word and God’s plan for us, with sermons that offer a glimpse of glory, and who instills God’s goodness and hope in us, week after week.
1. Finally, a place where each person in the congregation can travel our own unique journey of faith, yet come together as one to worship our Lord and God, build each other up, and claim a victorious future. I thank every one of you for your part in helping make this a true community – a true home!