It was on a Sunday in March of 1984 that a group of seven church members gathered to create a new Sunday School class to be called “The Seekers.” Joan Godsey, who would go on to become the central leader of the class for the next nearly 40 years, wrote in the original proposal that the aim was,
“To explore the meaning of their faith in an open and free context in which both affirmations and questions are discussed…On subjects determined by the people in the class, from interpretation of the Scriptures to the Christian understanding of nuclear disarmament…in order to understand how their faith relates to the difficulties and triumphs of everyday life.”
Rollin Armour taught the first lesson the following Sunday, which was on St. Augustine. The new class had already doubled in size, and before long would increase its membership threefold and become, for many years, both the largest Sunday School class in our congregation and the first class many new and prospective members would attend.
While difficult to believe now, the aim and structure of this class–intentionally open, encouraging of discussion, and not bound to any curriculum apart from the wishes of the class itself–in its time was quite unique, and raised a few eyebrows. These were the days when Sunday School “quarterlies” produced by the denominational office were the expected subject material and were to be taught by a central teacher in the class. Discussion was perhaps not as valued as retention.
The Seekers, with their democratized structure (while there have been class directors they have never had a central “teacher”), adventurous curriculum that was not afraid to lean into the intersections of faith and politics or social issues, and culture that was open to doubts and questions, was, for our congregation, a breath of fresh air.
In many ways the Seekers began as the “alternative” track and so many years later are very much the mainstream of our congregation. Not only has their class membership included some of our most active and engaged members, but their approach to faith and discipleship has come to define the wider trajectory of our church. It would be impossible to tell the story of our congregation over these last nearly 40 years without speaking of the Seekers, and it is safe to say that without their witness among us we would be a much different congregation.
Yet, these last few years, even before the pandemic, have been difficult for them as a class. They experienced many heartbreaking deaths of longtime members. The age and health of the remaining members had become such that meeting regularly as a class was more and more difficult. So in July of this year, in a class meeting at the home of Joan and Kirby Godsey, the twelve Seekers present supported Joan’s motion that “we have completed our mission.”
So we honor them this morning, giving thanks to God for their 37 years of faithful witness among us. Their approach to discipleship as a journey of formation and devotion to each other and the mission of the church has, itself, been a powerful testimony to “the meaning of faith.”