Guest commentary by Sarah Sparks-Franklin
“We forgot mints! We should have mints. Proper church ladies have mints at their luncheons.”
One of my 78-year-old faithful parishioners and the treasurer of our church’s Presbyterian Women group says this with a certain degree of sass and sarcasm that I’ve grown to love. We laughed, knowing that we had more important things to worry about as I looked over at the growing pile of newborn diapers we were collecting, eager to present them to our luncheon’s keynote speaker.
Serving a congregation in the suburbs of the Midwestern city of Dayton, Ohio, this particular luncheon was the first that our Presbyterian Women group had hosted in several years, and there was a feeling of excitement in the air. We had found an important cause to gather around. We may have forgotten the mints, but this luncheon was a step in the direction towards rebuilding our church’s Presbyterian Women group, and seeking to be a church that is outwardly focused on the needs of the people around us in the Dayton area.
Headlines in the news have tracked a growing epidemic in this country: the heroin and drug crisis – a crisis that destroys lives, families and communities across all socioeconomic boundaries. In fact, a few short months ago on an ordinary weekday morning, a middle class couple living in our neighboring town was found dead by their four children as they were getting ready for school. The cause? Drug overdose.
During worship one Sunday, when I mentioned the important work that Brigid’s Path, a new nonprofit organization in our area, was trying to do as a response to our community’s drug crisis, I received an overwhelming response from the congregants. Addiction is shrouded in so much shame and negative stigma that there is often a strong tendency to keep it hidden in the closet. However, so many people are affected by this crisis, either directly or indirectly.
Brigid’s Path is only the second nonprofit of its kind in the country, offering inpatient care to drug-dependent babies, and holistic, non-judgmental support and education to mothers and their families.
It was our church’s Presbyterian Women group that jumped on the opportunity to take up this cause and partner with Brigid’s Path. Through their renewed passion for this cause, they hoped to create an opportunity for people to make a tangible difference as we seek to address the drug and heroin crisis in our community. We hosted a luncheon where we welcomed the co-founder of Brigid’s Path, Jill Kingston, to share her story about the important work that Brigid’s Path hopes to do once their doors are officially open. We listened, we engaged in discussion, we cried and we prayed with one another. We concluded our time together by presenting Jill with our donations of money and diapers. But more importantly, we concluded our luncheon with a new sense of purpose. Members of the congregation who have never before called or written their political representatives made commitments to do so, urging their representatives to support and advocate the crucial work that Brigid’s Path is doing in our city. Still others began to talk about volunteering their time at Brigid’s Path. On the surface, these commitments might seem like small steps, but it is those small steps that create momentum and push the church to move forward.
Thirty years ago, perhaps it would have been taboo to forget the mints at a Ladies Church Luncheon. But today, as we live in an increasingly post-Christian landscape, offering meaningful and tangible ways for congregations to make an impact in our communities is more important than ever before. And I am proud to serve a congregation of people who are striving to embrace this outward focus, from the youngest child to the 78-year-old treasurer of our Presbyterian Women group, one small step forward at a time.
SARAH SPARKS-FRANKLIN is the pastor at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Springboro, Ohio, where she lives with her husband, Jonathan, and their daughter, Cora. In her free time, Sarah enjoys cold-brew coffee, reading dystopian novels and Netflixing.