September 14 – Why Mr. X Matters 50 Years Later

My current version of teaching Sunday School happens to be my part in teaching the Confirmation Class one Sunday evening a month. I love it. This year’s class is made up of eight wonderful ninth graders and I consider it a privilege to be a part of the teaching team that also includes Barb Chase, Lindsay Lauer and others.

But does it all matter, this teaching of Sunday School, or is it just something to be done and my turn comes around sooner or later? I’ve been a “take my turn” Sunday School teacher, too.

May I tell you a story? No names for now, not until I have full permission.

A week or two ago, one of my favorite LPC members (okay, I have a lot of favorites) called with a question about how she might find the record of her baptism at a Presbyterian church in the city. Her parents are both gone and the best she had was a fairly wide span of dates during which the baptism must have taken place, but no certificate, no photos from the day; no way to know the exact date. She knew the name of the church, Covenant Presbyterian, but it turns out the church is gone, as well. Covenant was one of those once-thriving Philadelphia city churches that did not survive the demographic changes of the 50s and 60s.

I told my favorite member that I knew just who to call. So I called the office of the Presbytery and sure enough the person I knew to call told me how to get in touch with the Presbyterian Historical Society and he sent me a copy of form you fill out to get an old baptismal or other church record. Then he added, “Why don’t you ask Mr. X, he was the last Clerk of Session at Covenant Presbyterian and he might remember.”

Mr. X – I’m not sure if he’d want me to say this or not – is one of the elder statesmen of the presbytery and I have gotten to know him well in the past year. I like him a lot.

When I next spoke with my favorite LPC member, well, she’s one of them, anyway, I mentioned Mr. X and she remembered him immediately. Mr. X had been one of her Sunday School teachers during elementary school.  In fact, when her family left Covenant Presbyterian at the time they moved to the suburbs, the whole Sunday School had sent them off with prayers, well-wishes and a book of remembrance.

The book of remembrance had photos and notes and a message from each of the Sunday School teachers to be read on particular days – Christmas, Easter, Pentecost and the like. Mr. X had penned the note for the World Day of Prayer, 1955. And, yes, there was a photo of Mr. X, young and dark-haired but surely the elder statesman of the church I have gotten to like so well in the past year.

It’s been well over 50 years since my favorite LPC member and her family moved to the suburbs. Covenant Presbyterian Church closed its doors for the last time years ago and Mr. X is now an active, contributing and amazingly faithful member of one of the city churches that is still adapting to its changing neighborhood. He serves the Presbytery well, and that’s how I got to know him.

So one of my favorite LPC members and her Sunday School teacher from over fifty years ago have begun to reconnect. Mr. X says he’ll come to worship some Sunday at LPC and I can hardly wait. He and the little girl in the photo she sent will reconnect and remember, as Mr. X says, “those wonderful days at Covenant Presbyterian Church where my faith was first formed.”

Mr. X was a young twenty-something when he started teaching Sunday School at Covenant Presbyterian Church. I think it was more than just taking his turn. Through teaching and serving as he has for the past fifty plus years, his faith continues to be formed. One of his early students moved to the suburbs, but she, too, continued to grow in faith and she is one of my favorite LPC members. Probably yours, too.

Does teaching in the Sunday School really make a difference? Yes. All the time it does. Just ask one of my favorite LPC members or Mr. X, her teacher from long ago.