"Now I Am Home"
After 32 years away, Dr. Joe B. Martin has returned home to Charlotte, NC as the lead pastor at Sardis Presbyterian Church.
Sardis Presbyterian is the fourth church to which I have been called as a pastor, so I have a little bit of experience floundering my way around as the new guy. This time has been different. Returning to Charlotte has allowed me to hit the ground running thanks to all of the relationships and connections that come with home. There are my childhood friends, of course, but also their parents who have made the effort to stop by for Sunday morning visits. So many of my Davidson friends who did not grow up in Charlotte have settled here that someone probably should propose some sort of zoning code. I have also been surprised by how many of my Presbyterian minister friends who grew up elsewhere have landed here, though I should not be surprised because the Presbytery of Charlotte is a great place to work and the Queen City is loaded with vital and engaged Presbyterian congregations. All these connections have provided me opportunities to learn about and to get involved with things that interest me years ahead of similar opportunities I’ve had in other places.
I thought that Charlotte would feel like home again long before Sardis felt like a new church home. I got that backward. Sardis became a home extraordinarily quickly. (I love this church!) However, in August, my West Charlotte High School connections started working. For months I have wanted to get back onto campus and find a way to get involved with the school that had more to do with raising me than any other place, but one cannot just wander into schools these days and I am old enough for all my teachers to be retired. When some meetings this spring took me near the neighborhood, I drove by WC a few times and considered stopping in the office, but each time decided my intrusion was more likely to disrupt someone from doing their job than anything else. However, after reading my May blog, a Sardis member and WC grad connected me with a teacher there, Kevin Poirier. He gave me a tour of my alma mater a few weeks ago. I loved both hearing him talk about the talented and hard-working students at WC who just need opportunity and seeing what was the same and what was different, though my emotions ran back and forth from joy to sadness on that last part. We took a selfie in front of the school. Ced Steele, a WC grad I’ve never met, saw it on Facebook and messaged me about the festivities around WC’s 80th Anniversary this year and connected me with Tim Gibbs, the president of the West Charlotte High School National Alumni Association. At lunch Tim and I made more connections because he turned out to be another Presbyterian. Tim then connected me to Isaiah Scott. Isaiah was a recipient of the WCHSNAA scholarship in 2007, which sent him to Morehouse on his way to Wall Street, then online technology, before recently moving back home. Isaiah is on a mission to use this anniversary year to raise $100,000 to provide more opportunities for talented and hard-working students. I am on a mission to ensure he is successful. At lunch with him today, I volunteered to be his committee. Anyone else want in? (By the way, Eastover and A.G. Lion friends, if you don’t want me to contact you about your donation, you should contact me first.)
Thanks to that progression of connections, this morning I got to stand with other WC alumni (at least two other Presbyterians included) to welcome students to their first day of class. I am absolutely certain that it meant nothing to those students. It meant the world to me. Carrie, Kevin, Ced, Tim, and Isaiah, thank you. Now I’m home.
It is good to be home and God is good.