But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. - 2 Timothy 3:14-15 (NRSV)
Mrs. Harrison is the first teacher I remember. I graduated from the Cradle Roll to the Nursery and then, when I turned 3, I left the baby toys behind and went across the hall to Sunday School, where we sat in little chairs at little tables and shared juice and crackers, and we learned from Mrs. Harrison. She had a gentle smile and a modest bouffant, and she sat at the tiny tables in those 1960s sheath dresses and high heels, with her lipstick on right, and she made sure I learned the song that taught the most important thing.
“Jesus loves me,” she sang, and I sang with her, and I believed he did. It must be true if Mrs. Harrison thought so.
Twenty-five years later I went back to visit and brought my 3-year-old son. When it was time for Sunday School, someone pointed us to the familiar room. My heart felt big enough to burst when I saw Mrs. Harrison standing there, as glad to see me as I was to see her. Her hair was grey, and not as high. Her lipstick was still on right. I left my son sitting on a little chair, looking up at her with a serious expression while she beamed back at him.
As I turned the corner at the end of the hall, I could hear them singing.
We give thanks, Holy God, for the people who first taught us about Jesus and gave us a sense of belonging, to the church and to you. Amen.
Martha Spong is a UCC pastor, a clergy coach, co-author of Denial is My Spiritual Practice (and Other Failures of Faith), and editor of The Words of Her Mouth, coming in 2020 from The Pilgrim Press.