Any pastor would be glad of having a congregant like Mildred Sutton.
But Reverend Ronald Bryant was having a problem reminding himself of that; today.
Mildred seemed to use all her spare energy on her congregation. She cooked for church suppers; sewed in Quilting Circles and visited shut-ins. She was there whenever to stuff envelopes, answer the phone or clean and decorate the sanctuary. If any job needed doing, her voice was the first heard to accept.
And – as much as her efforts were all exemplary– that had become a problem for Ronald. Over the last few years, many had become willing to “let Mildred do it.” Busy as they all were: it had become easy to sit back and let her carry the majority of the outreach assignments.
Ronald didn’t want to stop Mildred from serving the Church. Yet, he needed to stir the rest of his congregants to service, too. After all, there were so many who still needed to be reached; for the Lord – even some in their nearby community.
Ronald asked Mildred to supper with him and his wife, Lois. As soon as she arrived, Mildred asked what she could do to help and Lois – who seldom allowed anyone else in her kitchen, stepped aside to allow Mildred to help her with the food.
Ronald sighed. If anything validated his feelings, it was this single act.
During the meal, Mildred was full of ideas; she shared many plans for new ways to serve their church. After dinner, he began:
“Sister Mildred, we appreciate your efforts on behalf of the congregation.”
She smiled. “Well, of course, Pastor. I can do no less for the cause of Christ.”
“Your devotion is an example for everyone. But, I want to suggest a new direction for your efforts.”
“Oh... is it the food pantry? I’ve been thinking of reviving it.”
Ronald shook his head. “No, Sister; not the pantry.”
“Is it the baptismal font? It’s due for cleaning and repainting soon.”
“True, Sister – but Brother Matthew has promised to do that during his summer break from teaching.”
Mildred made a muffled noise; it could have been either a sniff or a “hmmph.” “Be that as it may, Sister. Brother Matthew deserves the opportunity to offer his service to the Body. Am I right?”
Mildred murmured her assent.
Ronald continued: “Sister, I’ll be frank. Just as Brother Matthews deserves that opportunities; so do others within our congregation. But your efforts – though commendable – have left them without much to do.”
Mildred seemed stunned to silence; then, her cheeks burned with anger. “Well, I never expected to be upbraided for my service! Everything I have done; I have done for the sake of Our Lord!”
Ronald waited until her anger subsided, and then gently responded, ““Sister, everyone appreciates your efforts. But a congregation is not only one person. God means for His work to be shared. Just as we all will one day join together at the Lord’s throne, I believe He means for us to join together in His service, down here.”
Her anger still smoldered. “Well, fine. I’ll just stop. See how much your other members get done.”
Lois suddenly spoke. “Mildred, I think some of us would help more; if you weren’t available to do it all. I wouldn’t mind doing the church suppers.”
This is what Ronald had hoped for. But Mildred answered, “I’ve always done the church suppers.”
Ronald interjected, “And they’ve been wonderful. If you were to train Lois, they might be able to continue to be wonderful.”
Both women exchanged looks. Mildred’s look was calculating; Lois’ was hopeful. Ronald continued, “I think Sister Sarita would be a wonderful leader of the quilting circle and Brother Colin would do very well visiting the shut-ins. As for the office, Sister Kelly can come after school – and then have something to put on her resume when she graduates.”
Mildred opened her mouth and closed it again. It seemed she didn’t know what to say.
“Sister Mildred, you’ve been so generous. But these others need your guidance so they can also do their part, for the Lord.”
She nodded, tearfully. “And what am I to do once I train all these people? Sit idle, myself?”
Ronald smiled, and breathed a silent prayer of thanks. “I’m sure a woman of your zealous nature can find many new outlets for her talents – both here and in the community. Let’s pray about it, shall we?”
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