The Gift of Community
I was a little late, so when I arrived the ladies and men were already busy. Fall leaves, apples and sunflowers were being arranged. The tables were skirted and pound cakes were being dropped off, unwrapped and sliced – flavor & name cards along side each one. At least 15 pound cakes plus one gluten-free version. And of course, nuts, grapes, strawberries and cheese straws. Even Wynn made a huge batch that we all couldn’t resist. The helpers always get the broken ones, ya know. We placed the cakes on pedestals and pretty serving plates and found room for them on the three food tables. We arranged plastic plates, forks and seasonal paper napkins on each table. We chatted while we worked – caught up on the kids, remembered how we met — when we were pregnant together, or when we had young children. Most of us knew each other already, but there was a crossover of a few different circles, so introductions were made when needed. But jobs like this already make you feel like family.
Pound cake was Angus’s wish. They were representative of the people — traditional, lemon, bourbon, brown sugar, raspberry gluten/lactose-free, poppy seed, five flavor, butter, sour cream, coconut — and probably some others I missed. Each made with love and fine ingredients, ready to offer comfort and grace.
Then the family arrived. Wynn arrived first, “I was dressed and the others were still getting ready. I knew it was time for me to leave that chaos behind and head over!” From the moment I first met Wynn about 15 years ago, she made me feel like a special friend. Today we lavished her, Winston, Dale, Liam and Parker with hugs, smiles and small talk. Winston proclaimed, “All the peeps are here!” and I corrected her that she surely meant all the important peeps were here. Over the years Winston and I have compared boy-mom notes and our love for social justice. We met Kate, Angus Jr. and the other non-Greensboro family and friends with handshakes and “we finally meet!” comments. Parker said the college sophomores were finally into their rhythm, especially this time of year and I told him I loved watching his card trick videos. I remembered the time my kiddo was invited to Liam’s birthday party – I think they were maybe 6 or 7? Now they’re high school seniors. Liam told us that today all of the grandchildren wore a necktie from Angus’s collection. You know that pastors have lots of neckties, right?
The time finally came for us to gather in the sanctuary. The service to celebrate the life of Rev. Dr. Angus McGregor had begun. Angus was a retired Presbyterian pastor and in his family is a solid lineup of Presbyterian ministers. As the family came in, and the organ sang, it was already feeling like a holy moment. I don’t always get this feeling at funerals, but this really was a time of worship. The sanctuary was full and I saw lots of familiar faces. We listened intently as the homily was delivered by Angus’s niece (also a Reverend) and a prayer offered by his nephew (also a Reverend). We knew that Angus loved people, the church, and justice. We learned that he played an integral role of helping integrate Clemson University when he was there as an undergrad. We learned of the time he invited Klan members into a prayer service that they were there to protest. I thought back to the first time I met Angus – he said hello and asked me if I was a Democrat! Wynn chastised him for being so presumptuous. This still makes me smile. We heard his son talk of Angus’s stories and his last visit with his dad. As he held back tears, our tears welled in our eyes.
I let the feeling of worship and grace envelope me and all I could think was this was the gift of community. Friends showing up to prepare the reception, bring cake, usher at the service, serve at the reception and clean up after … the list goes on. My role was small, and in fact, just a drop in the bucket of the McGregor community, but it’s such a blessing to be a part of something like this. The McGregor family has known how to build community for many generations and I am so grateful to be included and to learn more about acceptance and friendship from them. I hope your community is like this one — made with love and fine ingredients, ready to offer comfort and grace.
From the service program:
Give us a heart for simple things: love and laughter, bread and wine, tales and dreams. Fill our lives with green and growing hope. Make us a people of justice whose song is Alleluia and whose name breathes Love. Amen. – A prayer by Walter Wink
Photo credits: S. Keaney