When it comes to volunteering for church committees, my mother has the job (whatever it is) completely covered. She and her friends joke that she’ll be driving the bus through the pearly gates for everyone receiving their eternal reward. She’s not just on a team; she’s the team leader. She doesn’t just come to meetings; she asks lots of questions and fills the role of secretary whenever needed. She can’t just express her opinion on a problem or a decision needing to be made; she has to make the decision herself and start executing the action. A pile of forms, accounting materials, devotionals, and meeting minutes snakes from the kitchen table to her leather recliner in the living room most days, like a papery tripwire looking to snare an unsuspecting passerby or corral the dog to one side of the room. Though she is officially retired, she is really just an unpaid employee of First United Methodist Church.
I stepped away from being a part of the Church administration several years ago when I felt like I was losing touch with the main reason for being a Christian. It’s not a good sign when you want to avoid Sunday service because it’s stressful. I’ve slowly been creeping my way back into the web for the last seven or eight months now, first by becoming a lay servant and now, by becoming the Membership Secretary for our parish. My job is, at the moment, intricately interwoven with the work being done by ‘the two Debs’. The Debs were the first members to train on the database software our church is using now to keep both the member rolls and the financials and while neither of them is in charge of my work, things tend trickle down into their laps and then get shoved sideways into the hands of the membership secretary. Here’s where the fun begins. I’m the new secretary. Guess what? My mom’s name is Deb. Now I’m another cog in the wheel! I may be my mother’s daughter, but I refuse to be consumed by the Church’s business so much again that I lose sight of how much I love God and the people I’m in fellowship with because it becomes idle drudgery. Secular jobs provide enough idle drudgery. I serve God because He is love itself and he empowers me to love the world, not print meeting agendas and type up minutes.
This month we are hosting two families for a week to stay in our church. We’ll make dinner for them, hang out with them a bit, then they’ll sleep over, have a light breakfast and repeat times seven. I think it’s amazing that we get to help out by hosting families with Family Promise. I’ve done all the necessary training in preparation and I’m excited to jump in and get involved in some way. My mom is equally fired up about being a hosting church and is trying to make preparations in the areas she’s responsible for as a trustee. She’s not always on board with mission work because of where or how the money is being used, but she’s been a supporter of this program ever since the Trustees were approached by our associate pastor about it. As the day gets closer and closer, she’s been working hard with a team of other members to get the space ready for hosting and organizing some behind-the-scenes efforts to streamline the process for next time. With this on top of the usual accounting and managing work, she’ll be pulling all-nighter’s in no time.
Monday, along with my dad and a few others, she also helped move one of the older members of our congregation from her apartment to a nursing home. Sally, the feisty woman whose belongings were being transferred, also requested that a new TV be purchased and set up as part of the move. My mom spent more than her fair share of time fiddling with the remotes under Sally’s watchful eye and just nearly got things working. A work in progress, maybe. On the way home from Sally’s place, my parents had another misadventure. This time, a confused woman who couldn’t get her car in gear was stranded in the middle of the intersection and holding up all traffic. When mom pulled the car around, she found our Lay Leader trying to help the addled senior figure out the malfunction, in addition to who she was and where she lived. After the parking brake was disengaged, the car was piloted safely to the woman’s home by the gang and her husband called to sort things out. All in all, a typical Monday for mom.
Training day was today. Bev, the current Membership Secretary came over to help me learn the system and more about my job so I’m prepared to take over from where she’s left off. I got up earlier than usual. I had asked my mom for the cranberry banana bread recipe so I could have a snack for us when we met (mom always does this) and it was sitting on the kitchen counter with a stick of margarine softening next to it. Other than a slight panic over finding the proper size loaf pan, I mixed the batter and got the bread into the oven without a hitch. While it baked, I did all the dishes, straightened up the rest of the kitchen, cleared the table to make work space, and yes, took a brief nap. I even put mugs out by the Keurig, just in case. After an hour and ten minutes in the oven and lots of nerves, I pulled the bread out and it looked beautiful. Remove from pan and cool. But how? I gently slid a knife between the loaf and the pan around the whole way and tried to tip the loaf out sideways… NO! The bread started to crack at the middle and stick on a spot at the bottom of the pan. Finally got it out, in one piece, using a grilling spatula. I gave it a little press and squish just in case.
When Bev arrived, neither of us were as prepared as we thought we’d be. She’d forgotten her iPad at home, less than 15 minutes away, and the internet was on the fritz in the house. Mom wasn’t here yet. I fiddled with the WiFi while Bev whisked away home to pick up her tablet. Mom came in, then Bev, then the WiFi and suddenly the party was ready to get started. Bev and I worked along really well together and I’m having an easy time getting the hang of the database. As we worked, mom sat across the table ripping seams out of sheer curtains to be re-sewn for the church’s 3rd floor and making various comments or asking questions. We ate banana bread and had hot beverages (mom switched out Bev’s mug for one of my more delicate ones) and after addressing another issue not pertaining to the secretary position, the session concluded. I’ve already started going through the files she brought me on my own. I can get behind Holy idle drudgery.
It’s now, while I sit and think over the day, I realize just how very wrong I was and just how much we have to learn about ourselves and each other. I’d like to think that we’re so different, my mom and I, but we’re not. Whichever one of us greets you at the door, she will have made an effort to make you feel loved and cared for. That may be as simple as making snacks when a friend visits or as challenging as sewing two dozen sheer panels in a few days to give homeless families more privacy when they stay overnight at our church. We’re not just willing to jump into new things and ad lib, we consider it part of the regularly scheduled programming. Every day, I try to energize my spirit to do a little more outside the house and she spends a little more time getting in touch with her soul and God’s plan for her. So no, I’m not my mother. In a way, actually, we’re kind of becoming each other. We are blending our individual strengths – generosity without reserve, incredible strength, heartfelt gratitude, and sky-high dreams for kingdom life – and growing into so much more.