Monday, June 29, 2009

Glad Reunion

Jana and I were honored to be invited back to help celebrate the 60th anniversary of our beloved Trinity Baptist Church of San Antonio this past weekend.

New senior minister Les Hollon graciously extended an invitation to us weeks ago, and we eagerly accepted. I have returned to preach memorial services in the Trinity community on a number of occasions since I left three years ago this very week, but this is the first time I have had the privilege to preach a worship celebration.

It was an absolute delight, full with Trinity’s signature exuberance and warmth.

It was particularly thrilling to join in the dedication of the TriPoint community outreach center at St. Mary’s and Hwy. 281, just several blocks south of Trinity’s main campus at 319 E. Mulberry Street. Six years ago, God gave our congregation the vision to acquire the vacated Albertson’s Supermarket building at that location.

In one of the most notable outpourings of generosity I have ever witnessed from a congregation, Trinity raised almost $4 million in pledges to purchase that building in only two weeks’ time. Through the years, it has been used to house victims from Hurricane Katrina, host young and fledgling congregations at worship, and warehouse the San Antonio Junior League’s Christmas toy program.

But, the project cranked into high gear last year when the San Antonio YMCA agreed to partner with Trinity in moving their downtown facilities to the location. As a result, TriPoint now hosts a state-of-the-art fitness center its north side, and the Grace Coffee CafĂ© on its south side. Folks from all over the city are now gathering for exercise, fellowship, worship, and conversation because of Trinity’s remarkable vision of outreach.

We were met in the parking lot of TriPoint by our good friend, Rene Balderas, the chief architect for the project. Rene and Liz and their three beautiful girls joined Trinity during our ministry there, and it is a great gratification to see his ample creative energies come to fruition in such a facility. My colleague Jaime Puente, who joined our ministry team at Trinity, and who was responsible for much of the concept and program development of TriPoint, gave us the tour. Isaac and Cindy Rodriguez, who also united with Trinity on our pastoral watch, operate the Grace Coffee Cafe.

Simply put, we were stunned. The place is breathtaking. What was a gigantic box a short time ago is now a dazzling recruitment center for the Kingdom of God.

After the dedication, we moved to the main campus for a barbeque supper and worship celebration. We hardly got to take a bite of our brisket because of our many wonderful friends greeting us, welcoming us back home.

Who needs food when there is such nourishing fellowship?

Then we moved down the Musselman Corridor to the sanctuary where we joined together in a rousing celebration of gratitude, remembrance, renewal, and hope. Through numerous testimonies and video presentations, we were reminded of Trinity’s rich 60 year history—and challenged to dedicate ourselves anew to the work of Christ through us far into the future.

The next morning, Pastor Les presented his inspired vision of a coordinated and interfacing ministry of Trinity Baptist Church in three locations—the main campus, the Ruble Community Center, and TriPoint—and gave insightful theological interpretation to this tripartite ministry around the doctrine of the Trinity: God the Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer. It was imaginative pulpit work, and we left energized for the journey ahead.

God is good to give us this sweet time of reunion and reaffirmation. We are grateful.

Glad reunion, as my pastor John Claypool would say.

My little Trinity friend told his mother at bedtime Sunday night, as she tucked him in, “Mom, now I get to miss Pastor Charlie all over again.”

True. All reunions end.

But they would not be nearly so glad if they didn’t strike resonance within us for another place, provide us with intimation of another time, and lead us to T.S. Eliot's happy conclusion that we will someday “arrive where we started/And know the place for the first time.”


Paul said...

Charlie--well-said, as usual. You have a remarkable way of gracefully navigating adversity, often of the intentional variety, and remaining positive and focused on God's Kindgom.

I haven't learned that yet.

I was in Arizona, Florida, and Costa Rica this weekend. Sorry to have missed you guys--see you soon.

Anonymous said...

I understand that you and Les went to the same Seminary. Did you know each other as students?

Unknown said...

So great to see you again, CHarlie, and so sorry that it was just a moment's reunion! We're going to get up there to FW one day soon. When your book comes out, you'll need a private pilot to do your book tour, so Martin will be standing by!

Lots of love to you both,

Unknown said...

So glad to see you writing again! I feel the warmth of this reunion and hear your glad spirit in this piece. Keep on sharing. You sure have a story to tell.

Charlie Johnson said...

Paul, thanks for your kind word about my ability to handle adversity. Comes with experience, for sure. The values of the Kingdom necessarily produce conflict. They did for Jesus and Paul, and they will for us. We missed you, friend!

If Les and I were in seminary together, I do not remember it. I know him through his notable ministry at St. Matthew's in Louisville, and through his kind collegiality through the years.

Randi, so good seeing you and Martin! Thanks for the kind offer of the friendly skies-- let's hope There Is Always Enough merits such a means of transportation.

Maybe the writing muse is back, Kara. Or maybe just a break from a fulltime flock allows a little time for blogging.

Charlie Wilson said...

Good words and good conversation today. In light of my lack of biblical scholarship, let me encourage you to proceed patiently and to continue the Kingdom Work. Amen?!

Take care my brother,
Brer Charlie

Marcus Goodyear said...

I read about this in the Express News and thought of you. Glad to hear that it went well--and glad to see you quoting Little Gidding at the end!

Two lines in that poem seem like the perfect picture of the kingdom of God:

"Quick now, here, now, always—
A condition of complete simplicity."

I'm glad to see you writing again too.

MamaMia said...


Again, so sorry to have missed you and Jana last weekend.

When we think of TriPoint, we think of're in its core.

I will never forget your vision to serve the people of TBC's neighborhood. I pray that TriPoint will help make this connection.

Your are a gift to all of us Charlie.

God Bless!

Rene J Balderas said...

It was no accident that we collided in the parking lot of Tripoint. Trinity Baptist Church has lassoed a comet at Tripoint and the adventure is unfolding. God has ordained Tripoint and his presence is strong, his hand obvious, and his power prepared to bathe all!

It was a blessing to see you and Jana. We wish you both all of Gods Blessings!

Charlie Johnson said...

Thanks, Marcus, for your affirmation about my writing. It serves as a meaningful and motivatational encouragement to me.

Monica, Jana and I missed you, Carroll, and your girls too. Beautiful families like yours are who we think of when we remember Trinity.

Rene, I resonate with your testimony about TriPoint and its power. This is precisely the vision the Spirit gave us six years ago, but, in God's abundant manner, what is unfolding is "far more than we can imagine." Gloria a Dios!