Happy Anniversary, Dad (and IBC)

(Chatter Letter from the Editor, October) When my family showed up to the IBC parking lot 25 years ago in our long brown station wagon, I don’t think we could have imagined what awaited us. I was six, and had just left half a piece of Juicy Fruit gum under the pulled-up corner of carpet in my emptied closet just before my mother shooed us into the car. So far away, this new house, in a place called Irving, and I wanted to leave a memento of my existence behind for coming civilizations. Unless the new owners of the Garland house have renovated in the last 25 years (and I certainly hope they have), I suppose they would still be able to find that mummified bit of 80s memorabilia that has long-since stopped attracting ant colonies — the small proof of a first-grader’s force of will, and of her grief.

I don’t remember anything specific my parents told us to explain daddy’s new job. All I knew was he had an office at the old church and now he had a bigger office at the new church. I just hoped he wouldn’t forget to pack the Jabba the Hut eraser he had kept in the old office’s desk drawer, or the ebony statuettes with the carved faces he had displayed on the bookshelves. I hoped my mother wouldn’t forget the fondant cake topper from my parent’s wedding that she kept under a glass bell in the dining room, or her triangular clear paperweight with the ballerina inside. I cared more about my parent’s things than my own; of course, all I left behind was a piddly stick of gum. Ok, half a stick. Of Juicy Fruit.

What I couldn’t have appreciated then was how this would be the last time I would be uprooted and moved to a new community, a new reality, a new pretty much everything. Moving around is an experience as common as white bread (or gluten-free, free-range bread today) for most pastor’s kids. It had been true of my father, whose family moved every few years from Leaksville, NC, to Oak Hill, WV, to Greenville, AL, to Eufala, AL, to Paris, TX, then to Henderson, KY, then to Shreveport, LA. My Irish grandfather blazed trails across the Deep South to pastor small Presbyterian churches as though following the migratory patterns of exotic butterflies. A pastor’s life is transitory. Typically.

It seems there are two sets of people deserving of thanks and praise for my (and my four siblings’) unusually stable childhood. The first set is the body of IBC. In his Irish brogue, my grandfather would describe the kinds of people who occupy churches, especially church elder boards, and it seemed to me that being a pastor was tantamount to negotiating with terrorist gorillas. Not guerillas. Actual gorillas, who are somehow prescient enough to be terrorists. It seemed churches could be hostile places for new preachers because congregations are just waiting to be impressed, waiting to be served, waiting to be vindicated. IBC wasn’t like that. And it still isn’t. In its 50-year history, perhaps there have been bad apples or the occasional gorilla/guerilla, but those have never characterized Irving Bible Church as a whole. If IBC hasn’t been a city on a hill for the world — and I believe it has — it has been a city on a hill for me. (For what that’s worth.)

The next people who deserve thanks are Alice and Andy McQuitty. Those are my parents, in case, well, you know. Their willingness to stick it out and serve faithfully when so many other horizons must have beckoned is nothing short of miraculous. It couldn’t have been easy. I’m grateful they listened for God’s leading, even when I’m sure there were times they wished he would lead them somewhere else. Theirs is a legacy that won’t allow me to consider mediocrity.

Celebrating 50 years of IBC and 25 years of my dad’s leadership is special because both IBC and my parents have characterized my “authorities” for the greater part of my life. At 31 years old, I have spent more time under their leadership than outside of it, and every year that goes by I’m overwhelmed by a deep sense of grace that allowed me to grow up this way. Pastor Kid jokes aside, things could have been awful. IBC could have been awful. Our home could have been awful. I’m pretty sure I WAS awful. But IBC’s heart and its people, and the steadfast example of parents with a true faith and great wisdom, have made me the luckiest PK that ever was or will be. I’m sure Liz, Bonnie, Jon and Jeff would agree.

Congrats, Irving Bible Church. Congrats, Dad. Seems like that stick of Juicy Fruit was worth it. Ok, half a stick.

– Julie

5 Comments to “Happy Anniversary, Dad (and IBC)”
  1. Betsy says:

    Congratulations to your Dad and congratulations to IBC – the first church where I ever cried during worship. So glad you got to grown up as a PK at that church 🙂

  2. Grandaddy says:

    Well-said, Julie, as you always do. But this was special for me. Your mom, my daughter, is a most special woman, and I am glad you recognise that. Your Dad, my son-in-law, is not only special, but a truly great individual, father, pastor, encourager, and friend. You are a very special grandaughter – with a very special talent with words. Thank you for sharing with us.

    • Julie Rhodes says:

      Thank you Grandaddy! It is such a privilege to get to honor them in this way–with words. Thank you for your amazing example to all of us. 🙂 Love you!

  3. Peggy Rhodes says:

    We are so blessed to have your family in our family….we love all the McQuitty’s and IBC!

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