“The history of the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd is your story as well as it is mine. It is the story of God’s people, created by Him to live according to His will and purpose. It is the memory and story of times and events we share, that made us the family that we are.” - Eleanor Wilson, 2005
By now you have likely noticed that I like to share stories. Stories are the vessels of our collective wisdom and truths. When memorable, they are usually more effective in communicating wisdom and truth than are speeches or lectures, or least they seem to have more lasting power. My guess is that many more people can remember and share the basic outline and morals taught by childhood fables than they can of any Presidential speech.
The quote above is from a small book written by Ellie Wilson for the fiftieth anniversary of this parish. If you can find a copy, it is well worth reading again or for the first time. It tells a story of the founders of this parish, how they came to establish this church, and the story of its life since then. In the early 1950's, four couples from Clay County, each with their own local faith community, would occasionally attend the Episcopal Church of the Messiah in Murphy. In each couple, one person was a lifelong Episcopalian and the other had strong ties to these Western North Carolina mountains. It was those four - Rufus and Dorothy Vick, Ruth and Quintin Moore, Eva and Jim Ledford, and Ellie and Monroe Wilson - who started a monthly fellowship and study group that became the Church of the Good Shepherd.
From the very beginning, this church has been about fellowship and welcoming. Perhaps that is why we find those so important to our parish character and why we continue to do those so well. We also see that from our beginning this parish has been a meeting place for people drawn to a liturgical form of worship and for those drawn to live in the natural beauty of this area. This is our God-given genesis DNA. Ask your fellow parishioners why they are members of Good Shepherd and you will probably hear something about welcome and fellowship, worship, and the attraction of the mountains. This is in our DNA and it makes us a special place. Ellie’s book is full of stories that may help us all more appreciate just how very special is this church community and its various ministries. For example, do we not all appreciate our wonderful Chancel Choir and our music director, Keith Christensen? Do you know its history? In 1993 “the choir had five members, Mary Anne Koos, Bob Gaunt, Doris Etler, Joe and Evie Green. Every Sunday we pleaded with the congregation to come join the choir. One night this cute little blonde showed up and asked if it was all right if she could sing with us. We nearly fell off our seats! ... That was the first time any of us had met Bev Larson. Then she said she sang alto and she has a sister who sang soprano and a husband who sang tenor. We had more than doubled the choir.” I am grateful to that group of five and that they expressed the welcome and fellowship that mark us as a parish.
This year we have moved our Founder’s Day celebration to Sunday, May 19 in honor of Ellie Wilson’s one hundredth birthday. Ellie and Monroe’s children will be with us that day. Eva and Jim Ledford’s children will be here too. Two of those children are current members of the parish. Can you identify them? I ask that you please save the date for this special occasion when we will celebrate the story of us.
Grace and peace, Fr. Bill+