Another post in the countdown to Dan and Donna's 25th anniversary this coming June, which I began back in December. It is my plan to post a story, remembrance and/or poem once a week for 25 weeks leading to the big date.
Down to less than ten weeks now...
When we got married, we decided to find a church together and that I would leave the church of my childhood (Victory Memorial Baptist Church, over near my parents in the south end). About that same time, one of the guys in the band - Ed, who attended a Nazarene church - had heard about this struggling Nazarene church in Louisville's Portland neighborhood. Portland was and is a poorer section in the West End of Louisville and this church was just barely staying afloat. And so, two of the guys in the band, Donna and I all joined Westside Church of the Nazarene and it became our first church home as a couple.
The church consisted of the minister - a stern, fire-and-brimstone part-time pastor/full-time electrician - an elderly piano player, her husband and a dozen or so children and teenagers. Also, we had Billy as a fairly regular guest. Billy is an elderly gentleman with some mental retardation and he is just a delight (the last I knew, Billy was still with us, although he must be ancient, by now). He would often accompany the piano player on his harmonica, which he played with more enthusiasm and grace than talent.
The piano player, Mrs. Loyall, had grown up playing piano for silent movies and, as a result, played hymns with a sort of bawdy, ragtime feel. Her rollicking piano playing notwithstanding, she was a bit on the stern side, too.
And so, these four idealistic young adults joined the mix of the elderly and young at Westside. We spent some time working on the building, doing concerts, leading Vacation Bible School and other youth activities and, occasionally, butting heads with the pastor and piano player. Mostly, we got along well, but there were at least a few tense times.
After a couple years of doing that, we joined Baptist Tabernacle, also in Louisville's West End/Portland. This was while Donna was still in the Seminary, 1987, I believe. Baptist Tabernacle had been a fairly large and historic church in Louisville in the 1950s and 1960s. It had been a white church that had thrown itself into the fight for civil rights at a time when Louisville still had a good deal of antipathy towards the notion.
But, like many urban churches, it had dwindled down from an attendance of about 400-500 to about 100 by the time we had begun attending. It is in a section of town that had experienced "white flight," and with people leaving that end of town, they also left Tabernacle. Still, those who remained were a dedicated group concerned about their neighborhood.
To that end, Donna was eventually offered a Church Social Worker position at Tabernacle. She struggled with meager resources and sometimes opposition to new ideas. Donna and the church did much good work, nonetheless. She graduated from the Seminary in 1988 and we moved into our first house on West Main St...