I am a member of the staff at Palmer and I’m responsible for the front office where, before COVID, we welcomed the many parishioners and visitors who came to the church campus. One of my favorite things about being here day in and day out before the pandemic was working with the volunteers who sat at the front desk. It is a very special ministry to serve as the first person visitors see when they come through our doors, and each and every one of our volunteers has a ready smile and a sincere desire to be helpful.
Thankfully, most of us have stayed in touch during this time of isolation for so many. Every week most of us gather for a zoom call to say a prayer and reflect on our experiences. There is a silver lining that comes with this time as, instead of showing up solo every week for a morning or afternoon of service, we gather as a community. We have gotten to know one another better and look forward to each other’s company.
The volunteer ministry goes back many years and the list of parishioners who have served in this capacity is extensive. Our alumni include Barbara Hass, Jane Strickland, Jane Richardson, Audrey Burgess, Wayne Humbles, Victor Lamas, Kay Jackson, Sue Hamblen, and Bettye Adams. More recently, Carol Coats, Ann Pittman, Marie Woodward, Jo Lyday, Eleanor Viebig, Thelma Hunt, Art Keller, Bill Robertson, and Vickie Harshbarger have served in the role and I hope they will return when the vaccine makes it possible for us to gather in person without fear of becoming sick.
For now, the campus is closed to in-person visiting and the staff here is mostly focused on the support work that is needed to keep our worship services, small-group gatherings, bible studies, and webinars going; our parishioners connected with one another; and performing administrative tasks, facility maintenance and financial management. But this is Palmer – we’re in the middle of a big city – and sometimes someone slips through our doors and the unexpected happens.
That was the case last week when a stranger came by and encountered our business manager Tara McConathy. He asked her to pass along a message to a woman with white hair and glasses he met here 15 years ago when he was down on his luck. He needed to travel up north for training for his new job, but his truck had several flat tires. He said the woman prayed with him and then sent him to a tire shop on Tidwell so he could get new tires. Since that day, he said, his life has turned around. He has been an iron worker for the past 15 years, got married, and recently moved back to Houston to work.
The man, whose name is Rod McFarland, followed up with the Rev. Linda Shelton and shared this message with her by email. “I want to thank you all, because God led me to Palmer Church, and the love, kindness, and support is still in my mind, and the elder who helped me was such a wise and very sweet human being, … a great example of how Jesus would want us to sincerely minister, and serve. I will truly miss her, not because of what she did for me, but because she cared enough to know who I was, and took the time to encourage me to go farther, despite all the trials and tribulations of this life. Prayer changes things, and I’m living proof of that. God bless you, your family, and Palmer Church. Amen.”
It is likely that the woman Mr. McFarland met was Bettye Adams, who died in April 2018. She was the face of Palmer that day, just like the members of this special ministry have been, and soon, I hope, will continue to be. Thank you, Mr. McFarland, for reminding us of who we are and who we are called to be in this holy place on Main Street.