Yesterday I was back in church. For weeks, I have been traveling here and there doing what I do, so it was good to be back. I don’t believe that, in the comings and goings required of my position, I could sustain the energy and vision it takes to be a seminary president if I weren’t grounded in the life of one particular congregation where my soul is fed.

And so I was back in church. I experienced a wonderful anthem by our choir, and a magnificent sermon from our pastor, and the sweet mystery and fellowship of Eucharist (where my regular walk to the front to receive the elements of bread and wine reminds me of who and whose I am).

In addition to all of that, we ordained and installed a new class of elders and deacons. Most of them I know well; some are new to me. But all of them – standing up there in front of the Table and saying “I do” and “I will” to that daunting series of larger-than-life questions – seemed transformed by that moment of commitment. When those vows were over, the pastors gave each one of them the most appropriate symbol I could imagine: a towel. It would signal for each one of them the servanthood at the root of his or her ordination.

When the service was over, and I had sat attentively through an organ voluntary by Bach that I had never heard before, I got up and walked toward the narthex. A woman I know and love looked at me and exulted, “Is there anything more wonderful than being a Presbyterian?!” And, while I strive to be appropriately humble denominationally-speaking, I was equally caught up in the inspiration at the root of the whole service, and so, at least in the moment, I agreed with her!

I love my church because of the thoughtful intention behind everything it does. I love it for its beauty, and its diversity, and its stewardship of the mind, and its mission, and its fidelity to the city.

And, in addition, I love it because it attempts to tell the truth.

On Pentecost Sunday, just days after another mass shooting (in Texas, as so many others have been) the pastor presiding at the Table offered the Great Prayer of Thanksgiving. She lifted up in her prayer the names of each student and each teacher who had died at school in Santa Fe, Texas, the previous week. The weight of calling out one name after another was so great that she began to weep as she begged God to forgive us for our idolatries. She prayed that there be no more names added to the awful list of premature deaths, and as she prayed, I and so many others there were similarly liquefied in that moment. It was that shooting, by the way, that created an awful new statistic: Not even halfway through this year, more Americans have been killed thus far in school than have been killed in active military service around the globe.

I hear truths like this from many different sources, but I am particularly grateful when, back in church, people have the courage to tell the truth there, too.

This is not just my personal experience of church. I bet that it’s yours, too. It’s in a particular congregation that we all have been baptized, or confirmed, or married, or ordained. It’s in a particular congregation that we have received, and perhaps given, various acts of mercy and forgiveness and grace. Some day, it will be in a particular congregation that we each are lifted up in Witness to the Resurrection. From cradle to grave, we are nurtured in the faith in a variety of ways; but the basic building block of all of this is one particular congregation in one particular place.

So thanks be to God for my church… and for yours.

Ted WardlawTheodore J. Wardlaw is president and professor of homiletics of Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Austin, Texas.