We enjoyed our final gathering of the program year this week and our guest speaker, Lynda Smith. She was gracious in sharing her notes from her talk (including the three extra saints she did not talk about on Wednesday night!). Please know that Lynda would love to get to know you better. So feel free to ask her about life as a verger at All Saints' or simply ask her to go for a walk.
Greetings, Young Adult Saints!
My name is Lynda Smith. I have been at All Saints’ ever since I was a student at Georgia Tech as a member of the Canterbury group.
One of the things that is so great about All Saints’ is that there are so many ways to serve. I currently have the pleasure of serving as a verger, lay reader, Altar Guild, and Eucharistic Minister. In the past, I’ve also been a member of the Young Adult Group, Youth Advisor, an EFM graduate, a Sunday School Teacher, and even taught my daughter’s Confirmation Class back when they were confirmed in the 7th Grade and I could use trips to the Varsity as total bribery to get them to learn things!
I helped with most activities my daughter was involved in which included Children’s & Youth Choirs, Handbell Choir, Acolytes, and the Junior Altar Guild and Junior Flower Guild. One of the hardest jobs was organizing a Diocese-wide Acolyte Festival.
I am so grateful for the opportunity to speak with you this evening. My focus tonight is on Lessons from some Saints I have met during my time at All Saints’. My people are not really found in the “History of All Saints’” book. They are “everyday” saints that have taught me an important life lesson.
Since there are 7 sacraments, I thought I would fun to share 7 lessons I learned from 7 Saints that I have met during my 40 years (1980-2020) at All Saints’:
– The first is Tom Murray. You could guess that Tom was in sales when you first met him. He was a big guy with an affable personality and usually a big smile. He was a fun lector to listen to. One day, he made a huge mistake while reading and said something incorrectly that came out…pretty untoward! He stopped and laughed and looked at the congregation and said, “we’re going to try that one again” – and he finished the reading just fine. From Tom, I learned how important it is to recognize your mistakes and, when possible, laugh about them and, more importantly, let the mistake go – don’t dwell on it!
An important quick second lesson from Tom is that, as a sales person, Tom knew a lot of people and was willing to use his contacts to help young adults. Tom helped my friend Teresa (more about her later) get her first job where she met her future husband and helped her get car insurance! Helping others in small ways can overcome the inertia needed to make a big difference in the long run!
– My second saint was Anna Gurley. Ms. Gurley’s passion was tracking Sunday school attendance. Woe be it unto you if you didn’t sent attendance to Ms. Gurley in a timely fashion – and it was a bit of a death wish if you totally missed sending the numbers in for a class! From Ms. Gurley, I learned the importance of finding a way to Serve and make it my own - hopefully in a slightly less terrifying way 😆
– Charlie Gearing is my third saint. As Dean of the College of Management, it was unusual to be adopted by someone with such prestige on the Georgia Tech campus. Charlie provided the Canterbury group with guidance during the year when we were between priests. I have wracked my brain and sincerely do not remember anything specific that he did, but his quiet presence provided supportive strength to Canterbury. I learned you can make a big difference just by showing up.
– My fourth saint is Frank Player. You may remember Malinda Snow talk about Frank and her time at Canterbury. As the 11:15 usher captain, he made it a point to greet people. He asked your name and remembered to greet you after that. He really seemed to focus on younger saints. He made you really fell seen which was a wonderful way to start a church day!
Today, the Altar Guild has what I call “the Frank Player rule” to wipe down the offering plates between services because they get fingerprints at the nine and he wanted shiny offering plates for “his” service. Who knows what amazing long-term impacts you might have by warmly greeting someone or by making small suggestions on behalf of others!
– The fab 5th saint is Lynnelle Benson. Lynnelle was an artist who brought meditation to All Saints in the early 1980s. She was in my EFM group and did meditation for every…single… time that she lead the worship portion of our gathering. From Lynnelle, I learned that I am terrible at meditation and (mostly) hate it passionately, but I also learned to let others have their passions and allow them not to share mine - no matter how much I like them and wish they would play with me!
– My 6th saint is Sheila Ragsdale. As our EFM Leader, Sheila provided a wonderful example of creating a space and culture to share ideas and beliefs and not judge them.
The most memorable exercise we did during my 4 years of EFM was the night we took the Lord’s prayer and yellow highlighters to highlight the words or phrases we really believed, underlined the words that we sort of believed, and left alone the words that we were uncertain about or thought “uhmmmm….no….I don’t think so!” This group of 10 everyday All Saints’ parishioners responded to this exercise with everything from almost all highlighted to underlined Amen.
That is when my love for All Saints’ reached a new level. My lesson was to really understand how different everyone is in their walk down the road of their faith and how that road can be steep and rocky, but just keep showing up with the hope that the path will smooth out!
I truly love our current invitation to Eucharist that recognizes “whoever you are, wherever you are on your journey, you are welcome at this table”.
– Last, but not least, please allow me to introduce a person I met at my very first Canterbury meeting. Teresa Morris greeted me and was quick to ask me to be involved – maybe leading up to be a lot more involved than I wanted or expected – which is how I astonishingly became chair of the Canterbury group after only being a member for 4 months and…oops….before I was actually confirmed in the Episcopal Church! After growing up Methodist with a splash of Baptist, I couldn’t figure out how to join without the “come on down” part of the service.
But from Teresa, I learned to be willing to ask others to play a role. Wonderfully, Teresa is still a dear friend and loves to confuse other people by telling them that I am her godmother - and I am - because she asked me to be when we were at Georgia Tech.
Teresa is also a godmother to my daughter and I’m godmother to her boys – are ya confused yet? Even after 40 years, Teresa remains a special friend of my heart.
So who knows what amazing journeys you might undertake if you ask - or - if you say Yes! when you are asked!
I appreciated our discussion about the lessons you have learned from your everyday Saints and look forward to talking with you again soon!