Post Author: Lee Hull Moses
The figs were from some church members with a tree in their yard. Turns out my daughter loves figs. The toy tractor was a gift from one of my son’s many adopted grandparents, beautifully crafted out of wood and love. The saltines were from someone who had accidentally bought individually wrapped crackers and thought surely the church could use them, and the cake was from a woman who was headed to the hospital for several days and didn’t want it to go bad.
That was a pretty normal day. Sometimes I think this ministry could be defined by the things people give me.
Decades-old prayer books from someone’s uncle who was a minister. Family heirlooms from a church member who doesn’t have any children. Tattered books of children’s bible stories uncovered at rummage sales. Newspaper articles clipped and slipped under my door, with highlighted names and handwritten notes: “He used to be a member here!” Books people think I should read. Hand-crafted wooden boxes: four of them, to date – two for me, from two different woodworkers, and one for each of my kids, “because every child needs a treasure box.”
I get leftover soup from church luncheons and fresh loaves of pumpkin bread. Plates of cookies left after the funeral reception has been cleaned up. Bags of salad that will go bad before the next church dinner. (The salad goes home for my family; the cookies rarely make it out of my office). I’ve gotten vegetables from home gardens, and cartons of eggs from a family who raises chickens. On my birthday one year, someone left a bag of peanut m&m’s hanging in a plastic bag on my doorknob.
Gifts of love, all of them. Sometimes – the food especially – it’s a way of taking care of me, of caring for me and my family. Sometimes, it’s a reminder that part of this calling is to share their stories, that when you don’t know what to do with something meaningful, the church is a pretty good place to go.
Last week, a woman I didn’t know knocked on the door of my office. She looked tired, and held out a small cardboard box. She explained that she lived nearby, and that she’d spent the past week moving her mother, who has Alzheimer’s disease, out of her home in another city and into a care facility. “I found this,” she said, “and I wanted to give it your church.”
It was a blessing box, used to collect coins to be donated through the Christian Women’s Fellowship to support missions work around the world. This woman’s mother had been active in a Disciples church for many years, but through time and circumstance, this little box had never found its way back to the women’s group from which it came. The daughter had hadn’t had time to drop it off at her mother’s church, and so brought it to me, trusting that I would know what to do with it.
Judging by the weight of the coins, there can’t be more than a few dollars in the box, but that’s how those blessing boxes work: a few dollars here, a few dollars there, and amazing work gets done. I could picture the women’s group she attended, imagined how much they are missing her now that she can’t be with them.
I asked some questions, but the daughter didn’t really want to chat. It had taken four days, she told me, to make the move and clean out the house. I could tell she didn’t have the emotional energy to talk about it anymore. Please, just take this box so I can go back to the work of my grief, she said with her eyes.
So I said what I always say when people give me these things:
Lee Hull Moses lives in Greensboro, North Carolina, where she is the pastor of First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). She attended Albion College (BA) and the Divinity School at the University of Chicago (M.Div.). Lee and her husband Rob have two young children, Harper and Jonathan, who provide nearly endless entertainment. She is the co-author, with Bromleigh McCleneghan, of Hopes and Fears: Everyday Theology for New Parents and Other Tired, Anxious People.