The Memorial Care Ministry has a long history of women (and a few men) who love to serve families in our church who have lost a loved one. Way, way back when the telephone was our main source for communication, these dedicated women took on the task of calling other women, asking them to provide a cassserole or a dessert for the reception that followed a memorial service. There were the food providers and there were the servers, and it required the efforts of both.
When Gertrude Ankeny retired from her years as overseer, she passed along to me a box that held some history of the memorial care ministry—a bit of cash and a log of who provided what, when, and for whom. A true archivist would have found a way to keep the box, but this notorious deaccumulator took a picture (and filed it for ten years) for such a time as this! You can see for yourself the rich history of service represented in this one NFC ministry. Many among us can remember dear Leona Aebischer and dear Ruthanna Hampton; many can also remember being fed and served by our beloved Gertrude and Harlow Ankeny.
Times changed and with it the mode of communication. I used e-mail to recruit a team of women who were willing to on occasion bake three dozen cookies or serve at a memorial reception in the social hall. Along with this came the change to simplify our receptions to offering only coffee/punch/cookies, a loss to those who remember the full-meal receptions but a joy for those family members who feel the relief that this will be done for them during a time of stress and planning for the service itself.
Twenty-five women quickly agreed to this simple commitment—not to bake or to serve but only to be asked. When the need arises, I simply send a blind e-mail to the team. Each team member knows that if the request doesn’t fit her life and times, she can simply ignore the note, confident someone else will step up this time and that there will always be another chance to say yes.
You know what? In ten years we have made only one last-minute emergency run to Nap’s! And that was because I had underestimated the need. No kidding—our memorial care team faithfully carries out the ministry to which they’ve been called. They might think of it as baking a few cookies now and then, but the families they serve see it as much more. Ann Howe and Terri Bowen are usually (but not always) the ones who want to serve. This means offering the better part of their day, because it involves coming early to make coffee and punch, arranging cookies on trays, laying out the table design, attending the (sometimes long) service, heading downstairs on the final song to light candles and uncover cookies, keep a close eye to refill coffee/punch/cookie trays, assess when is the right time to start clearing, freezing leftover cookies, washing accessories, gathering tablecloths to launder, and waiting for the last guests to leave before locking up.
I’ll bet that just made you tired, but I list these steps to illustrate this is no small ministry. We aren’t splitting logs or teaching Sunday school, but our team works in beautiful unity, sharing individual gifts to provide a place of comfort and conversation for families in loss, one at a time.
Years ago, a church in Michigan provided for my children and me a comforting space to greet those who came to celebrate the life of someone we had just lost. The memory of being served so kindly and well on that unusual day stays with me, motivating me to “pay it forward.” If you feel similarly or just like to bake cookies, there’s room for you on the memorial care team. Just call me at the church office (we still use phones) and I’ll add your e-address to the group. When the next need is known, I’ll blind copy you, and you can respond or ignore! That’s how we roll.
PS: Yes, men can bake cookies and serve! Step up and be the trend changer.