Jean Shantz – Witnessing Steward
A few weeks ago, I listened to the remarks made by a witnessing steward at a service in my son and daughter-in-law’s church. The gentleman introduced his remarks by saying that although he had not been much of a church-goer, in the 1980’s he walked past the church sign and read that the congregation there provided nursery care. Since he and his wife were new parents they welcomed the idea of having one hour of peace, and so walked inside. That was the beginning of a rich and meaningful experience for them in the Christian faith.
I thought that perhaps this has been the experience of many families in our church as well. We do offer nursery care, Sunday school, and much opportunity for spiritual growth.
What is it about this profound, deep longing which draws us to the church!
My experience began in a different manner than the gentleman in Toronto. I have been in this church; with intermittent absences during my university years and early married life, ever since I was six years old. This is where my sisters and I grew up. Knox is my church home.
My father was deeply steeped in Presbyterianism; my mother had been a devoted Convention Baptist, and my husband had a rich background in the Mennonite tradition of pacifism spirituality and service to humanity. Yet in spite of their varied backgrounds, they were welcomed and found a loving home here.
It has been said that we should try to see the face of Jesus in the people we meet. Often these are the persons who have touched us most. For personal reasons I shall not dwell on my family, nuclear or extended – only to say that I have been blessed.
But I will mention my maternal grandfather, who pointed out to me and my sisters at a very early age, the scripture which he considered to be the most important verse in the Bible.
It is John 3:16 ” For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
Then, there was the time when Mother who was my Sunday school teacher, took me to hear a missionary speak about her work in the Field. I do not remember where that mission field was, but I shall never forget the face of that woman as she read these words.
Romans 8: 35-39. “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril or sward? Nay in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is Christ Jesus our Lord.”
These were the most powerful words I had ever heard!
When I look back I see with admiration, the faces of leaders and clergy persons – our teaching elders with whom I have grown in the Faith. Fortunately, that experience continues today. And for that I am grateful. The clergy were frequently entertained in our home by our parents when we were children. Bill’s family did this as well and we have tried to carry out this custom in our home. We have been enriched by these experiences.
If I were to flesh out some of the faces I remember as I was growing up at Knox, I would have to mention Sam Wismer, Marg. Kuehl’s father, who worked for the Waterloo School Board. As a child I remember his kindness at Elizabeth School and then saw him every Sunday at church. He was a person who carried his faith into the workplace – a man who always greeted me with a smile, a story, and even in illness, a positive outlook on life.
There was Martha Brand who taught all her Grade 6 pupils at Elizabeth Ziegler School and in Sunday school, the importance of memorizing Scripture. How could I forget Mrs. Henderson with the large family to care for but who still had time to remember me on my wedding day by putting white heather in my wedding bouquet.
There was bright-eyed Mr. Mathieson, the Scottish baker, who in his immaculate kitchen, taught me to make shortbread. There was a man whose goodness shone in his face!
I remember with affection Millie Brand, the dedicated nurse of the old school, who lovingly cared for me when our babies were born.
Lastly, there were several people who helped to create in me a passion for the music of the church. Beth Clark, my first teacher, introduced me to Bach, Handel and Mendelssohn. She had the voice of an angel! Also in the choir, was our Scottish scone lady, Betty Murray, who taught me how to carry the alto part. Then there was Tom Garner, the chorister with the deep bass voice and ready smile who encouraged me when I first began to sing.
These are but a few of the faces at Knox who have influenced me in the past.
At the present time, there are persons in this congregation that I could not live without. Many of you, I know, are in with me for the long haul. You will know who you are.
For all of these associations I am grateful. Each in his or her own way has helped me to establish my priorities. In all our thinking God should be there. I am still learning this lesson from witnesses who have gone before me and continue to be inspired by the people around me in this congregation.
Faith is all about response – a feeling of thanksgiving and a need to demonstrate that.
I am not here to tell anyone how to support the work of the church, but I know that you too have memories of people who have helped you along the way of faith.
Our response should be in kind. For this we thank God; in these people we see the face of Jesus.
Stewardship is not so much the ‘how’ we give, or the `what’ we give but the ‘why’ we give. If we know the `why’, all the other things will fall into place.