Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A Village of Help

Sometimes when we enter a long canvass season, asking people to make a pledge for the coming year, and then challenging them to increase that pledge -- it might seem as if the only thing the church asks of us is money.  The truth is the church asks for a lot more.
The extended canvass was just winding down this year when Anne Rudloe succumbed to her final illness.  The timing was such that Anne’s Memorial Service was scheduled on the day following a special Finance Committee meeting and a special Board meeting.  That day, Saturday, also happened to be the Church Workday.  Although the members of the Board and the Buildings and Grounds Committee had plenty to think about that day, they also all helped to coordinate extensive plans for Anne’s memorial.   
Knowing Anne as we did, and knowing the positive impact she had in the many circles of her life, we knew we had to prepare for a larger-than-average number of people coming here to honor her life.  That meant making special arrangements for parking and organizing parking volunteers.  Little did we know that it would also mean letting those volunteers get drenched while performing their duties, which came to include holding umbrellas over the guests. 
Extra chairs were moved into the Sanctuary so 180 people could be accommodated there.  The virtual sanctuary was prepared to hold another 40 people, and a final overflow space was created in one of the classrooms.  Making those spaces available called on the resources of Workday, set-up and technology volunteers.
As it is the custom of this congregation to offer a reception at the close of a Memorial Service, another host of volunteers were called upon to make food, set up the Veranda, serve beverages, and clean up after everyone left. The Veranda was the perfect setting for fellowship as the sun finally returned.  
No one counted all the attendees, but, a fair estimate suggests 210-225 people found places in the Sanctuary, at the back of the Sanctuary and in the virtual sanctuary. They were all welcomed by greeters who tried to find everyone comfortable seats. Tables of food and beverages greeted all those people at the close of the service.
This is one of the additional things our church asks of us -- to provide hospitality to those who mourn, to make our sanctuary their sanctuary, to provide comfort in times of need.  
No one took a full accounting of everyone who helped...but, there were about ten people working at dozens of tasks on Saturday morning, and forty-six people supported the efforts on the day of Anne’s Memorial Service.  A village of over fifty people, working in concert to make of a Memorial Service the very thing it needed to be...welcoming, hospitable, and a safe place to mourn, remember and reconnect.  This is some of what our church asks of us.