By Terri Johnson Gregory
Please note the spelling. If you don’t, she will remind you that it’s not an ordinary spelling. But then again, Britne is not an ordinary young lady.
Britne is bright, very witty, wise beyond her years (all 16 of them). She can sing better than most entertainers and has the stage presence of a pro. She also can laugh at herself. You will notice, when you first meet her, those incredible blue eyes and her hair. I always notice her hair because from week to week, it is apt to change in color or style. She can be grumpy when she doesn’t get enough rest and simply giddy when she almost has enough sleep. If you have the opportunity to talk to Britne (or rather, listen to Britne, because she does love to talk), the conversation will eventually lead to her faith. Britne loves God. No surprise, really. Her mother and grandmother and aunts and uncles are grounded in their faith. Her parents encouraged and nagged her (yes, with Britne sometimes nagging is necessary) to be in church and active in all that she could do for God.
I am Britne's pastor, and pastor of two churches: Woodlawn United Methodist and Shiloh United Methodist. In December 2006 I challenged both congregations to read through the Bible with me in the coming year.
The degree of interest was varied. Britne and I never talked about it. It was during that time that Britne’s father was diagnosed with cancer. He was a 41-year-old man who loved his wife, Brenda, and their daughters Britne and Faith. His faith was evident through his “girls”: all three of them. The fight against that horrible disease began. There were doctors and weeks at the hospital in Winston-Salem. There were treatments and tears and laughter and prayer – oh, the prayer. There were very few Sunday mornings during worship when Britne didn’t ask for prayer for her daddy and mother. She provided updates on his condition and how the week had gone for the family.
One Sunday morning, as I stood by the door of the church welcoming folks to Sunday school, Britne and Faith came in. Faith, who was 5 years old, informed me that Britne was reading the Bible to her. When I began to question which stories she was reading and when was she reading to her, I was informed that it was every night and it was every story in the Bible. (Thank you very much.) In addition to that, they were nearly finished.
Later, I cornered Britne to get the real story. And the “real” story was just what Faith had said. Britne had accepted the challenge of reading the Bible from front to back in December 2006, when I first announced it. But Britne wanted Faith to have that opportunity, too. So every night, while their mother cared for their sick father, Britne pulled out a Bible story book and read first, all the Old Testament stories, and then, all the New Testament stories. She wanted to get through the stories while her Daddy was still home.
And she did. By August, all the stories had been read and some of them had been repeated. Dale died in October. His legacies are his three girls who carry his spirit, love, and knowledge of our faith stories in their hearts.
At the beginning of this year, when it was time to make New Year's resolutions, I remembered Britne – the young lady who spells her name and lives her life in an extraordinary way. Our faith stories are important.
The Rev. Terri Johnson Gregory is pastor at Woodlawn/Shiloh United Methodist Churches in Wytheville District.