April 21, 2018
Dear Bishop and Pastor Joan,
After moving to Upstate NY back in 2010 we were soon looking for a church home. I believe it was Google that first pointed us to The Love Church. With a name like that, images of hippies passing the bong around a sweat lodge wearing nothing but their ponytails first came to mind. But marijuana wasn’t legal yet, and the doctrinal statement on the website was reassuring, so we decided to check it out. The smoke-free atmosphere coupled with spirit-filled worship helped deliver the most refreshing dose of holy joy I’d experience in a long time. When that was followed up by a whitest rendition of TD Jakes complete with gold cross on a chain and that purple gemstone bling ring, the combination was enough to make a Southern Baptist’s eyes water.
Bernie cornered us after the service and talked me a few laps around the sanctuary before Jesse and Lianne swept in as catalysts to divine intervention. Soon we were off to lunch and initiated into the family via Old Country Buffet style communion. Over the next two years we would go on to worship and serve with fellow Christians of your small flock from Elmira-Horseheads, to tornado-flattened Joplin Missouri, to the orphanages of Haiti.
There were a few things in particular that impressed me about The Love Church. Family is one. Not just the fact that we felt like family there, but that there were a quite a few actual family members of yours in attendance. It takes a special kind of ‘prophet’ to maintain that kind of respect in their own hometown. Auras tend to evaporate with familiarity. You have to be above reproach to maintain the reverence of people who know you far better than those who just show up on Sundays when you’ve naturally got your best foot forward.
There was the sending. I’m awed by how many times TLC has fearlessly blessed the evangelical aspirations of members eager to plant a new stake in the ground in the name of Christ. From the branch in Tacoma, Washington to the birth of Pine City Church (which seemed to siphon off half of the congregation at one point.) The Love Church was more selflessly open to spreading love, rather than keeping it bottled up in the name of financial security, than any other church I’ve attended.
And then there’s y’all. A couple of the most kind hearted shepherds I’ve ever had the pleasure to know. Thank you for your focus on the best aspects of God as we attempt to understand Him— mercy and grace, generosity, spirit filled worship, the care of orphans and widows, open hearted community and deep fellowship. I was never lacking in hugs or friends during our two years at The Love Church. Thank you for making us feel like part of the family during our time there.
Love to you both,