A Tapestry of Grace
When I see children on the playgrounds, ball fields, or in the lunch rooms of schools all over Birmingham, I see integrated diversity. When I go to the mall, restaurants, local businesses—almost every single place where people gather in our city, I see integrated diversity. But sadly, when I go into most churches I see just the opposite, segregation. The church’s segregation can be an unnecessary barrier to people coming to know Christ, growing in Christ, and becoming a welcomed part of a local church. Jesus prayed for our oneness (John. 17:21), died for our oneness (Ephesians 2:14), and is moving all human history toward our integrated oneness in both worship and community. The Eternal City will display His glory through unity amidst diversity that flows from who He is (Revelation 7:9-10, 19:6-10). So, something has to change. With the help of the Dawson Family of Faith, Tapestry Church was started to be a part of this change. No matter a person’s history, heritage, mistakes, or successes, God is weaving together a Tapestry of grace for His glory and for not only the good of Birmingham, but for the entire world!My name is Deric Thomas. I first came to Birmingham in the 1970’s in my mother’s womb. She and my birth father were fleeing the hatred and violence that surrounded my conception.
I was conceived in a small, rural country town in Northwest Alabama. She was white, he was black. Things were so difficult for my teenage mother. She was under so much pressure from friends and the community that she was pushed to go into a clinic in order to have me aborted. When the doctor called her back and he led her through a brief questionnaire, his final question right before he was to take my life was, “Are you sure you want to go through with this procedure?” By God’s grace she got up from the table, walked out of the office and went back to that small town in Northwest Alabama. Soon after, she moved to Birmingham.
I was born in downtown Birmingham and lived the first six years of my life on what many would call the wrong side of “the mountain.” “The mountain,” is a reference to the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains that divide Birmingham in so many ways—ethnically, racially, economically, and even environmentally. Even from my earliest years I can remember the problems that surrounded me and my family. My birth father left us when I was about a year old. I did not grow up in a church-going home. We were lost. Even if we wanted to find a church home, did a welcoming one even exist? I had so many questions. Who would accept me? Who would love me?
We eventually moved “over the mountain” into Homewood where I found the initial answers to some of these questions through athletics. I loved football, baseball, basketball, and soccer. I actually loved them too much. I played year round and found my identity in sports. Even a good thing like athletics became an idol for me. But when my success in sports was no longer satisfying, I eventually gave them up.
While living in Homewood, our home was in an apartment complex on Valley Avenue within walking distance of Dawson. I attended Edgewood Elementary, Homewood Middle School, and Homewood High School. Although we never went to church, at times I would walk to Dawson to go to Sunday School, Wednesday night activities, VBS, and other church-related activities. Because of my love for sports, I spent hours and hours in the Dawson Recreation Center!
Through Dawson’s influence on me spiritually and in God’s great mercy and kindness, I began reading the Bible for the first time while in college at The University of Alabama. As I was reading the Gospel of Matthew, God opened my eyes to the glory, beauty, and majesty of Jesus Christ! Many of the Gospel truths that had been invested into my heart through the ministries of Dawson came to fruition that night. It was at that time that I turned from my sin and put my faith in Christ with a sincere heart. Looking back, I am so thankful for the many people of Dawson who sowed the seeds of the Gospel and of Christ’s love into my life. These people knew me as a neighborhood kid who would show up at times at their church, but I was always welcomed, loved, and taught about Jesus. I am so thankful for their faithfulness!
As you know, the world is rapidly diversifying, and it is no longer acceptable for the church to be years, decades, and in some cases, centuries behind. The demographics of the Birmingham area are rapidly changing, especially in the Over the Mountain community. A core team of people joined me, Heather, my wife of 17 years, and our five children (and one on the way) in launching Tapestry Church on September 9, 2018. We started Tapestry Church in order to make Jesus known, make disciples, and grow and multiply churches all over Birmingham and the world. We want to be a church that knows, loves, and honors God, and a church that knows, loves, and honors people. A place where the people of the world are all welcomed no matter their color, how much money they have or where they come from—a true tapestry of God’s grace. On our first Sunday morning of worship, nearly 375 people gathered at the Embassy Suites Conference Center in Hoover to launch Tapestry Church!
I am amazed that God has brought the Dawson Family of Faith back into my life as Tapestry’s supporting church. Thank you for coming alongside our church over these next three years with your prayers, personal service and encouragement, and generous financial support. I see so clearly how our great God has woven Dawson’s story, my own story, and Tapestry Church's story into His great story of grace!