It was Kay, in the parlor, with a hug. The Grief Support Group was ready to begin, and Kay’s hug found one of the newer participants. “I prayed for you all week,” Kay said. And she wasn’t the only one praying. Members of the group have listened and prayed and shared stories, growing closer as they talked about what grief has been like for them.
“I can weep here. I can’t do that with my other friends.”
A group of people, men and women, from differing age groups and life situations formed a safe, welcoming community. They trust one another to listen and care without judging. It isn’t just Kay, in the parlor, with a hug that’s making the connection. It’s God, in the world, with us.
“It’s comforting to talk here. I see how you’re coping, and that gives me hope that I will cope too.”
It was Betty, in the sewing room, with a needle. There was a quilting group at St. John’s in the late 1960’s. Pat Vidamour remembers her mother, Betty, belonging to it. “Mother loved that group,” Pat says, “and they made the most beautiful quilts.” Pat remembers her mother talking about how sneaky the group could be, in a kind way, of course. Once a week, they gathered and talked and quilted. When they were finished for the day, they packed up the scissors, material, looms, needles and thread. One by one, they said good-bye, and drifted out of the room.
That evening, one of them, (maybe Betty or maybe not,) crept back into the church and took the quilt out of the closet. She carefully smoothed it out and found the space where Rosa Lee (not her real name) worked. You could always tell where Rosa Lee worked; the stitches were loose and crooked and uneven. Maybe Betty or maybe not Betty meticulously pulled out all of Rosa Lee’s stitches, re-doing every one of them, making the new stitches blend in perfectly with the work of the other ladies. Next week, the ladies returned to quilt and talk. Again, someone came back later to fix Rosa Lee’s handiwork. They did this week after week. How kind of them to overlook Rosa Lee’s poor quilting skills. What a beautiful example of caring and compassion and hospitality. It isn’t just Betty, in the sewing room, with a needle making the connection. It’s
God, in the world, with us.
“I felt lighter when I left last week.”
It was Rosemary, in the apartment, with a picture. I first saw the five by seven collage of seven women when I visited a St. John’s disciple who lives at Concordia. She told me Rosemary gave her the picture. When I visited another disciple at Concordia, there was the picture again. The third time I saw the picture, in yet another room, I demanded to know its story. Turns out that Rosemary Carlson saw her neighbors at Concordia becoming lonely and inactive. She started rounding them up. “We’ve all experienced a lot of change,” Rosemary explains, “and changes have a sharper edge when you’re 80.” She says her faith has grown by what she’s received from serving others. “I’ve learned that life is precious and everyone needs someone to talk to. When we’re together, everybody wants to talk about health problems. We share highs and lows, but we try not to dwell on the lows.” Evelyn Lageman, who is also in the Concordia picture, leads a Bible study from time to time. Between the Bible study, their group time, and sharing Holy Communion together at the Tuesday chapel service, these women are connected to one another and to God. It isn’t just Rosemary, in the apartment, with a picture making the connection. It’s God, in the world, with us.
“Others tell me I should be over it by now. Thanks for letting me tell my story over and over again.”
It was Shirley, on the porch, with a flower. When I saw the flower arrangement, I thought it looked like the altar flowers from last week. Turns out that it was. Shirley Stoldt had joined the Altar Flower Delivery Ministry Team. “My husband has been on lots of committees and projects in the church, but I haven’t really done anything,” Shirley begins. “At my age, I can’t do much, but this? Visiting – I can do!” She didn’t know June Ann Deaner when she knocked on the door, but they were soon talking like old friends. “The flowers are from the church,” June Ann told me, “they’ve been here all week and haven’t wilted a bit.” Thanks to the ladies on the delivery team, the connection between St. John’s and some of our homebound disciples has not wilted either. It isn’t just Shirley, on the porch, with a flower making the connection. It’s God, in the world, with us.
It was Sherry, in the den, with a hand. “See you next week,” the Stephen Minister waved as she left her care receiver’s house. Sherry Sinnott serves as one of St. John’s 16 Stephen Ministers who listen, care, pray, encourage, and offer emotional and spiritual support to others. “You know that painting by Michelangelo where God extends his hand to Adam?” Sherry asks. “That’s what Stephen Ministers do; extend a hand.” She explains, “It’s not my hand though, it’s the hand of God.” And that friendly, caring, helping hand builds a relationship grounded in trust and caring. It isn’t just Sherry, in the den, with a hand making the connection. It’s God, in the world, with us.
It was Loretta, in the nursing home, with an orange. Loretta Johnson is a Communion Minister who visits and shares communion with one of the residents at a local nursing home. “I asked her what she would like, what could I bring her,” Loretta says, “and she got this sweet look on her face and told me she would love an orange; she hadn’t eaten an orange in years. Imagine that!” On the next visit, of course, Loretta took an orange, as well as the bread and wine of communion. Her friend was thrilled, Loretta explains, “You would think I gave her a million dollars!” It isn’t just Loretta, in the nursing home, with an orange making the connection. It’s God, in the world, with us.
Who done it? Well, it was God, of course. These are only a few clues to what God is up to in and through St. John’s. There’s really no mystery about who is shaping and forming and prodding and blessing us. God, in the world, with us. God using us to reach out, invite, and welcome. God using us to listen, understand, and care. God in the world using us and others to create a community. You are a part of that work, that creation, and that community.
Who is doing it? God, in the world, with YOU.