Lathrop Nelson’s faith story

This is Lathrop’s story in his own words…

Nelson family
Lathrop Nelson and his family

Growing up, we went to Church regularly. Of course, being Episcopalians, our family never really talked about God or, heaven forbid, Jesus. But at the week’s end, I attended Sunday school at the Church of the Redeemer in Bryn Mawr and even sang in the youth choir.

In time, I grew out of Sunday school and, as a freshman in high school, joined the Redeemer Youth Group. The RYG was a thriving group of teens with dynamic ordained and lay leaders. Our weekly Sunday evening gathering was a social outlet, but it was spiritual. We talked about God. We talked about our life, our families. We prayed. We sang. I may have started my faith journey at Sunday school by learning the biblical stories I had heard time and again, but, as a teenager, I started to understand that journey and think about my faith and about God.

Every other month or so, the youth group would go into Southwest Philadelphia to help repair homes as volunteers for an organization, “Follow the Carpenter.” And once a year, we loaded into vans for a Habitat for Humanity work trip. Two of those trips were to Charleston, South Carolina, where we helped repair homes after Hurricane Hugo. We were, as a homemade sign taped to the back window of one of the vans proudly declared: “Christian Nerds on a Field Trip.”

I was a suburban teenager going into inner-city neighborhoods ravaged by poverty and, to top it off, a fierce storm. Of course, it opened my eyes to a different world, and it also opened my heart. I recall sitting twenty feet off the ground in 90 degrees heat while we put on a roof an on elderly man’s home so that he could take the tarp off and not have rain flow into his bedroom. The man’s gratitude and expressions of faith provided a lesson in humility, optimism, and God’s mysterious ways. I know that I gained more from that experience than he did.

Through college and the years thereafter, Sunday mornings were for sleeping in, reading a newspaper, having a leisurely breakfast. I hadn’t lost my faith; there was no jarring experience that caused me to push away God in my life. I still cherished attending the Christmas Eve service and hugging my mother when, without fail, the congregation’s singing of Silent Night would bring a tear to her – and, if truth be told, my – eye. And, of course, there was that marvelous August day at the Redeemer twelve years ago when Erica and I said, “I do.”

When, eight years ago, Adair was born. Erica and I decided it was time – for Adair and for both of us. We had walked by St. Peter’s many times. And so one Sunday we walked into this beautiful sanctuary. It was scary. We were new. I had never really “church shopped” before. But it didn’t take us long to find where we belonged. We didn’t go anywhere else.

And now Adair and Conrad and William, have started their own faith journeys. The Children’s service, with its singing and story-telling, may be directed at the young, but it has renewed and strengthened my own faith in ways that I couldn’t possibly imagine. To see Reverend Claire behind a table lined with children, who had just heard stories of God’s love, holding up her hands blessing the Eucharist, and then glance over and see your daughter, kneeling and, following Claire’s lead, raising her hands up to God as well, transforms one’s faith. And it confirms that St. Peter’s is our family’s spiritual home.