A Personal History at Advent ~by: Damon Sinclair
I can’t tell you what my first memory of Advent was but it was definitely in the old church on Broad Street. Sunday school for me was in the new church that we use today. What I remember was mostly fun, of the teachers, they were fascinating characters, a glimpse into the world of adults. They were all nice, some times inspirational, and believe it or not full of fun. And now as an adult I realize they all tried very very hard and I’m grateful to them.
Eventually I got to become a teenager which meant it was time for what we called youth group. Having an assistant minister who was youth oriented helped a lot. He was more or less our age seemingly in terms of his attitude and sense of humor. So with him off we went on many adventures together, all of which were things that I will never forget. One Sunday night a month we would go to the Emeryville State Mental hospital. We would get together and have a little party. We would bring some sodas and potato chips and sit around and spend time with teens that really had it tough. Many of them came from broken homes where there was a lot of violence, and so that’s where the state put them, not knowing where else to keep them safe. It was an entirely new world to me, most of them were very honest with their stories, while enjoying their new friendships with us. One thing I recall was the hope they had. Life had given them a very bad deal, and by no fault of their own their situation resulted in tremendous dysfunction. I recall many of them would tell us that they were getting out and going home the next month with a big smile on their face… the following month we would usually see them there, once again. If ever there was an empathy machine for a young man growing up, that place was it. It was impossible not to love them.
Getting to know those kids was a powerful experience for me. It taught me how to be able to talk to anybody from any walk of life, Little did I know that my life experience in journalism and filmmaking would take me to many of these places where those kids lived and get to get to know families like the ones these boys and girls came from. It was that experience at the Church of the Advent youth group that gave me a head start in understanding a different kind of life from the one all of us had.
What I’ve just written is only a little bit of my history at Advent. Shortly you will all be receiving a photographic directory of members of our church. In the beginning of it you will see the history of the church written and painstakingly researched by Bill Stelzer. I found some stories that I expanded on that I thought were significant. I think you’ll find a completely fascinating history of this place where people come to pray. And you will realize that it has not always been easy going for the congregation of this church that began in 1882. For example, at one point there were no church services held for two years. We don’t know exactly why that was but someone decided to take a leap of faith and by 1900 they began holding services again.
There are countless thousands of people who have gone through the red doors of these two church buildings. I venture to say that almost all of them had meaningful, life-changing experiences. So this brings us to today. I believe new awareness, perhaps some profound and some maybe not, is still here waiting for us all to explore.