Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Reflecting on Otter Creek

After reading Phil's post today, I decided to generate this post. I had the honor of writing the cover article to the last Otter Creek church bulletin published in our Granny White home. Below is the content of that article.

Spiritual Formation: Reflecting on Otter Creek

Thirty-three years ago I began a spiritual journey when at the age of ten I came to Otter Creek. I say began because I can pinpoint that time as the beginning of my spiritual formation. The earliest memory I have is one of historical significance to Otter Creek and one that had a deep impact on me. I was ten, sitting in the balcony when Carolyn Rodgers’ father slumped over in a pulpit chair and died after leading a prayer. Buddy led us in prayer and song as several of our doctors tended to Mr. Rodgers. That event is not sad or traumatic for me. The way Otter Creek handled that experience taught me a profound spiritual lesson. A man with a personal relationship with God need not fear death; rather his life will be fulfilled by it. The sentiment was how glorious a reward to be taken in such a manner. Can you imagine a better way to conclude your earthly journey than by saying a prayer at Otter Creek?

Because space is limited, I can only share a few memories: the home-made potlucks that were not meals but feasts punctuated by the heavenly concoction of Ruth Rucker’s sweet rolls. Being put in charge of the sound system at age fifteen—thank you Glen Snoddy. The fun-loving mothering of Sharon Tate to the youth group. The heady adult classes, especially as a teenager crashing in on the offbeat genius of Ed Neely Cullum. Playing basketball every Sunday with Wayne Reed, Johnny Crothers, Jim Butler, and Steve Adams, and others. Hugging Buddy and Bernie every Sunday morning. Watching my daughter sit in Ed Rucker’s lap.

I fear to offend through omission, so I share a few word associations that I hope touch all. John Rucker: rock, OC’s Peter; Ruth Rucker: OC’s Ruth; Carolyn Maddux: Holy Scripture; Wayne Reed: steadfast, our Job; Jim Butler: quiet leadership; Buddy Arnold: Holy Spirit; Bernie Arnold: soul mate; OC singing: heavenly host; Otter Creek: home.

My remembrances of my formative years are that the ministers and teachers were spiritually deep. The women were matriarchs leading through service and faith. Our elders were spiritual leaders when elderships were typically business administrations. The men were strong but not afraid of emotion. The summation of Otter Creek’s influence on my life was the development of an intimate relationship with a living God. This relationship with the Father has saved my life. I thank you Otter Creek.

But this is not the conclusion. With all the new lives being born and brought into our family, we must shed our old wineskin or else this new wine will burst us. We must take on a new skin to ferment this new wine so that it carries the aroma and body of Christ. We must cross the creek and continue to build personal relationships with our Father.

I held it together pretty well during service. I teared up during the Buddy songs, especially O Lord our Lord and The Lord Bless You and Keep You. I even did fine during John Rucker's testimony.But, when I started backing out of my parking space looking up at that building, I lost it. I broke down knowing that was the last time. Maria, my 5-year old daughter, understood. She was so sweet. She said, "Sad, but happy."

I couldn't say it better.


erinlo said...

You are such a fantastic writer. Although I have never visited Otter Creek, it is neat to hear everyone's memories. And now ya'll will get to go on and make more precious memories in your new building!

Tony Arnold said...

You made my day Erinlo! Thanks.

When you visit Nashville, you know where to come visit.


jettybetty said...

I totally agree with Erin! I've enjoyed reading everyone's sentimental and inspiring thoughts about OC. I am also excited to see what God has for your church family in your new home!

John Grant said...

What a great post, Tony!

I can relate to the deep feelings attached to a church building. My "home" church in GA is now a courthouse!

And I can relate to a child speaking needed wisdom.

Thanks for sharing your journey with us through your blog!

Erin is right -- I look forward to hearing and reading about the ways God continues to use OC as a blessing in its new quarters.

Amanda said...

Too bad I'm at work...it's tough trying not to cry when I read through that.

On Sunday, one of the major memories that came to my mind (since I've only been at OC for a couple of years) was that time that I sat with you, Kris, and several of our elders in that upstairs room on little kiddie chairs as you guys all prayed for me. I cried as I thought of that on Sunday, and more tears come now when I think about it. Because that's what OC is. There will always be something special about that building. Something warm and cozy about it, but buildings do not have that feeling on their own. It is the people and the spirit that inhabits those people that gives a building that feeling. And those people will be in the new building.

Sweet, sweet Maria. I couldn't have said it better, either.

Amy said...

What a great tribute to a special church. I also haven't visited OC but know it is a Spirit filled place.

May God continue to smile on you through all these transitions as you begin the next step of the journey.

John & I will have to make it over there one of these days and look you up.

Justin said...


i'm just glad that people like ya'll have helped make otter creek what it is.

i don't think we've ever met before, next time i see you i'm gonna introduce myself. I'll be on praise team sunday and I'll look for ya

Tony Arnold said...

John and Amy, you have no good excuses not to visit us sometime. Too close.

Do you know Dee Dee Dunavant? She is in the college life group my wife and I host. I think she went to College St.

Amanda: that was a special night, especially the result of the prayers. I will never forget the sweet music that was coming through the walls. The vesper team was practicing before they went downstairs.

Justin, we definitely need to introduce ourselves.


Amy said...

Yes, we know Dee Dee! She is a great girl. We moved here this past summer so we haven't really had the chance to get to know her well. I'm glad to hear she is in your life group.