Today during the gathering of our church, St. Andrew’s Anglican, I was struck by the beauty of both the young and the old. We are a small church with ages ranging from several days to several decades (and by several decades I mean pushing 10 decades). Week in and week out we gather together in the Valley of Syracuse to sing praises, pray, hear and sit under God’s word for us, and go forth to minister to the world. It is a beautiful thing. And as I’ve said before, we are a group of regular folks who are variegated across many spectrums.
Today’s particular eye and heart-catching moment came thanks to four lovely ladies.
The first two ladies were in the first service. In our tradition we have the pastor (me) who preaches and does some other stuff, an acolyte or two (fancy word for servant) who help out with communion, and a lay reader (someone from the congregation who reads the Scripture passages). Well, today’s acolyte and lay reader were two lovely ladies between 70 and 80 years young. Both have been part of St. Andrew’s for quite some time and faithfully served and been ministered to as part of the church. I guess what struck me was not only their willing attitudes, but was the fact that within the church two women of older age are still fruitfully and joyfully serving.
Perhaps this caught me off-guard because of our culture’s preoccupation with youth and beauty as the main means of asserting value and worth. In a culture where time, efficiency, strength, and facade are idealized, stepping back to see the beauty of these two women and their identity in Christ makes one pause. It is certainly a blessing to a part of their congregation where all are looked upon for service. It is all too often that churches bypass those who don’t fit the ubiquitous mold of leadership and service found outside of the church to the dismay of those ready and willing to serve.
The second pair of lovely ladies came in during the offering in the second service. We were rather small during the second service and were a bit shorthanded when it came to ushers. Thankfully, two faithful souls came to our aid in the shape of two little girls. One was 3 and the other was perhaps 4, maybe 5. Contrasted with the age of the two lovely ladies from the early service, these two young girls lovingly collected the money offerings from the congregation. Smiling throughout the whole process, they brought a reciprocated smile back from every “cheerful giver.” I’d venture to say it was a bad day to try and be one who gave begrudgingly.
Again, my mind thinks to the images I am accustomed to. Ushers are supposed to be business men in business attire walking to and fro between the aisles. This isn’t a bad thing; it is merely the normal thing. And yet, here came two smiling lovely young ladies gathering money from people who were adopted grandmothers, cousins, aunts and uncles in plates too large for them to carry. They have no idea what the money will go towards nor do they care. They simply know they were asked to fill in and obliged happily. Examples? I think so.
I’m thankful these two pairs of lovely ladies were there for our congregation as servants disguised as everyday older women and little girls. The aged, feeble hands of the two and the small, mismatched fingernail paint of the other show us that regardless of age or experience everyone can be and is able to be part of God’s family. All is needed is openness and humility. Perhaps the greatest truth of today is this: Jesus’ hands and heart were present among the hands and hearts our four lovely ladies.