By Nancy McCrickard, Mission Advancement advocate
Each time I receive an issue of Messenger magazine, I glance at the articles quickly and then turn to the back for the “Turning Points” section to review recent deaths. Later, I go back and read the articles more thoroughly.
Why, you may ask, do I look at the “Turning Points” section so intently?
Over the last three years of serving with the staff of the Church of the Brethren, I have formed relationships with many people across the denomination–people who are faithful, passionate supporters of the church.
As a Mission Advancement advocate for the denomination, I work to build relationships with ALL individuals who support the Church of the Brethren through their generosity of time, talent, and resources (regardless of the size of the gift). Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have “serenaded our supporters from the balcony” through phone calls, personal letters, handwritten notecards, emails, text messages, and Zoom meeting visits.
We have also embraced the paradigm shift in religious giving: from a traditional perspective that is often summarized as “fundraising is raising money,” to an emerging paradigm that suggests that “fundraising is nurturing generosity” and that supporters are collaborative partners.
We have sought to make our supporters more than a name on a page or a number in our database. And each week in our Mission Advancement team meeting, I share donor stories from correspondence over the past week that have inspired me so that all of us can be inspired together.
Subsequently, while reading the list of deceased members in Messenger, I find myself pausing to reflect on my fondest memory of that person. Memories like:
- visiting a woman who was a missionary with her husband in Nigeria and seeing the original manuscript he wrote that led to books about their work;
- telling a retirement community resident that it was okay for us to stop talking long enough for him to take his medications from the nurse (and not keep her waiting any longer);
- having lunch with a couple and videotaping an impromptu scripture reading for them for an online worship service;
- sharing a bag of Herr’s potato chips with two supporters at Annual Conference in 2019;
- spending time with a widow after the death of her husband (who had passed shortly before a previously scheduled visit), hearing stories about his life as a Church of the Brethren pastor;
- talking with a gentleman on the phone (a few months before he unexpectedly passed away) when he reiterated his commitment of support to the Church of the Brethren;
- giving a loaf of blueberry bread to a couple to express gratitude after the gift of a beautiful, homegrown lily on my previous visit, and receiving a call at the end of the week so he could report they were “fighting over the last piece of bread”;
- working from the home of supporters who graciously hosted me for a few days, enjoying meals together, walking with them to a nearby yard sale, and shedding tears as we departed, knowing that we likely would not meet again.
These stories uplift just a few individuals who have passed away in the past year and a half. All were just ordinary Brethren who have supported our denominational work. Many were also members of our Faith Forward Donor Circle (FFDC) after choosing to include the Church of the Brethren in their estate planning. I am honored to have met many faithful Christ-followers who have enriched my life and work.
Over the last few years, I have often said that I am hoping to learn from the individuals I meet, forming a mosaic of memories and experiences of those supporters. Each of these individuals have added one or more colorful tiles to the mosaic of my life. As a result, I strive to honor their legacy within the Church of the Brethren and to celebrate our shared mission.
In Bread for the Journey, Henri Nouwen noted that each of us adds a piece to the story of faith, like colorful tiles, and that together we reveal a beautiful picture of God’s face to the world.
Today, I invite you to consider the many “tile opportunities” in your life. How will the mosaic of your life take shape today, this week, this month, and in the years ahead? And, in the spirit of re-aligning perspectives: how might you add a spot of color to someone else’s life mosaic?
Blessings to you in creating your mosaic!