On Sunday, October 13 Tommy and I took our youth and a few adults to visit with Don and Betty Williams at Westminster Woods. A little over a year ago, Tommy began taking our youth out into the community to visit with members of our church who cannot regularly get to HAB for worship and other events. Typically, we bring hymnals along and sing together while also sharing stories and offering prayer for one another. Our visit with Don and Betty was no different, and our time spent together was deeply meaningful for all who went.
Prior to our departure from Westminster Woods, Tommy and I stayed behind to talk with Don for a few minutes while the others made their way outside. As we spoke, Don talked about his transition to Westminster Woods and how the move caused he and Betty to consider looking at other churches due to the distance from HAB. He mentioned that they tried different churches nearby, some they liked and others that were not a good fit. But, as he was finishing his story he said, “But, ultimately there was nothing like HAB, and we continue to call it home. The difference is worth the distance.”
His words spoke to me in a powerful way. The difference is worth the distance. What is it that makes HAB different? What is it that causes someone who lives in St. Johns County to drive such a distance to worship and serve at HAB?
On our website we have a slogan that says, “A Different Way of Being Baptist.” But what does that mean? I am sure if we collected answers from our congregation the responses would vary as do most things at HAB. But, isn’t that one of the ways that HAB is different? Despite our differences (and there are many!), we are held together by One who celebrates and uses our varied gifts to advance the kingdom of God on earth as it is heaven. Many churches celebrate the same thing, but at HAB there is a concerted effort to welcome all to the table. We seek to be a place where Jesus in honored and glorified through radical hospitality, deep worship, and compassionate outreach. And while we don’t always get it right, it is that desire to be such a place that I believe draws people to this place. That is the difference that is worth the distance.