To be acknowledged is a beautiful thing.
I visited Worth United Methodist Church on assignment during their Sunday worship service a few weeks ago. I was there to probe into their members’ reaction to their pending church closure. Upon my arrival, I settled on the back pew hoping not to draw attention to myself.
But, I didn’t go unnoticed at all.
Ramona Paulumbo of Bridgeview was in the pew in front of me. She moseyed over to help me find my spot in the hymn book. She was like a one-person hospitality committee. She saw to it that I took part in communion. I hadn’t intended to. My plan was to inconspicuously snap a few photographs of the congregation while they took communion but she beckoned for me, so off I went.
At my church, The Apostolic Church of God, we take communion in individual tiny, sealed plastic, hourglass cups. The wine is in one end and a nibble of tasteless cracker in the other. The congregation remains in the pews as ushers pass them down the aisle until everyone has been served.
I can recall being horrified by my daughter, Donae, offering an explanation of communion one afternoon. She was four at the time.
“Church was good this morning.” she said. “I like community day because we get juice and a snack!”
She got a thorough Bible teaching on communion after that!
At Worth UMC, everyone strolled to the altar and stood in a single-file line to receive communion. Their pastor, Sung Kown Oh, literally broke apart an entire loaf of fresh baked bread and proceeded to pass out doughnut-hole sized portions, which we dipped into a wine filled Chalice.
I’m no wine connoisseur, I don’t even drink socially, but, if I had to guess, I’d say theirs was the good stuff.
A couple more dips of that, and I might have gotten tipsy.
At the conclusion of service, I was quickly approached by Patricia Hodges of Palos Hills.
“Uh oh,” I thought. “I better hurry to explain why I have a notepad and camera.”
It had been my intention to inform Pastor Oh, I’d be visiting when we spoke earlier that week, but I’d forgotten. Before she could even speak, I reached to shake her hand. “Hello. My name is Claudia Parker. I’m a reporter, for the Reporter newspaper.” I said.
With a warm smile and a tender touch she replied, “I know exactly who you are.”
I was thinking to myself. “You DO!?”
She continued. “Come.” She waved for me to follow. “We’re going to have refreshments in the fellowship hall.” she said.
Then, it happened again. I introduced myself to another person and I heard.
“Yeah, Claudia Parker, I knew I recognized you.” a voice from behind me said, “She looks different with her hair pulled back doesn’t she?”
It was a pleasant surprise to be recognized. I hadn’t expected that at all.
I said, “I take it many of you subscribe to our paper?” I heard a resounding “yes!” One lady said, “I read your column all the time.”
Helen Kristufek of Worth chimed in. “I used to be a columnist for the Reporter too.” she said. “But, that was many years ago. I’m old, I’m 86. Back then, they were a different paper.”
I felt an instant connection to the group.
Their affiliation to our paper and to me as a writer made it easy for me to talk with them. They treated me like they knew me and made me feel like I was a part of their church family. I walked out of there with pep in my step.
It felt good being acknowledged for my work by a collection of people I had never met.
I began purposefully looking for opportunities to acknowledge good qualities and behaviors I recognized in people each time I encountered them.
I’m not naïve or arrogant enough to believe Worth UMC treated me well because I work for this paper. I believe it’s their common practice. I hope we can all strive to be more open in receiving people we encounter.
Let’s all look for ways to acknowledge the good in people while choosing to show kindness to strangers as if they were family.
After speaking with my new friends at Worth UMC, I learned that many of them are uneasy about the imminent closing of their church.
After 130 years, they’re closing due to rising cost and low membership. Several members expressed anxiety about where and how they might fit into a different church setting.
However, I believe wholeheartedly that the seeds of good they’ve planted will produce good fruit. Good luck to you Worth UMC. Regardless of where you go, I pray you will be met with the same warmth and kindness you’ve shown to others.
Claudia Parker is an Evergreen Park mother, author, runner whose columns appear the second and fourth Thursdays for the Reporter.