I was looking at the Old Church Mouse Cookbook the other day. For many of you who were not around All Saints’ in the ’80s, like myself, it was this masterful collection of recipes from the whole church. A group of 30 people worked together to compile all of the recipes, illustrate, and publish this master collection. Though I was not alive when it was created, I remember seeing the thick spiral-bound recipe book on the shelf and learning to make several recipes from it while growing up. When I say thick, it is a whopping 332 pages of recipes, including some famous figures in the VIP section such as then-Governor Jim Hunt and former President Jimmy Carter. It is a reminder of a different All Saints’. On page three, I find the list of the committee members and am reminded of the impact that those 30 people had in our community, and of the love they shared for one another and others. Some are still with us. Some are with us in spirit since they’ve moved away. Some have left us to be with our Savior. I ran across the full digital copy of the cookbook on our website a week or so ago and got to rejoice in the joy of it again. For me, joy has been a little difficult to come by recently.
As several of you know, I have been serving as a hospital chaplain since shortly after the pandemic began, in addition to my work with All Saints’ Children and Youth. The decision to become a hospital chaplain was not fully my own. The Bishop requested that I do Clinical Pastoral Education as part of my formation when I became a Postulant for Holy Orders in the Diocese over a year ago now. I was happy to have a homecoming of sorts to the church that has loved, formed, and raised me all these years. I was happy to serve the youth and children’s program that shaped me into the woman I am today. But the big gaping hole in the middle of all of that was COVID-19. Being a hospital chaplain is hard enough already without adding COVID-19, masks, and social distancing into the mix. I have held the hands (with gloves) of shaking people as they wait for news or as they come in from the ambulance. I have held iPads for families as they watched their loved ones die on the screen. I have orchestrated the switching out of visitors to say goodbye. I have rejoiced when a patient finally gets to leave those four walls and return home. But the last one is happening less and less now. Instead I more often than not walk the loved one out of the hospital after just losing the love of their life, their parent, their child, or their best friend.
Death and loss are not foreign concepts to my young self. All Saints’ has been by the side of my family and myself from a very young age. This wonderful community has walked alongside me through family cancer diagnoses, the loss of family members, and loss of a wonderful mentor. I would not be as strong as I am today without the love and support that this community continues to raise me up in. I would not be able to continue to enter into the warzone of a hospital every day without having All Saints’ there to back me up. I love this community so much that words cannot describe the impact it has made on my life, including the incredible group of insightful and passionate kids we have.
It pains me to say that I need to take a step back from the Children and Youth Ministry, as the Hospital Chaplain side of my life needs more space while the pandemic continues to grow. Right now, I need my beloved community to just love and support me instead of also working for them.
But the good thing is I am just the chocolate chips in the cookie recipe. I am excited to announce that we will be having two people joining us to help out with the Youth and Children this year. First, we have Mayden McDaniel, a recent graduate of UNC-Asheville with a degree in Mass Communication. She is coming to us from the Episcopal Service Corps where she was stationed at Creative Peacemakers in West Asheville and the Bishop’s office for the Diocese of Western North Carolina. Then, we have Sami Waller who is a freshman at UNC-Charlotte and has a long history of working with the Agape Day Camp at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Raleigh and “Science in the Summer” Day Camp. This dynamic duo will be leading our Youth through 2021. I will help transition them into the role over the next couple weeks and then they will be baking and creating new recipes for All Saints’.
Although 2021 is not a fresh start nor the end of the difficult chapter that Covid-19 has brought us, if All Saints’ has taught me anything in my almost 23 years of life, it is that anything is possible with lots of love and a good batch of cookies. The All Saints’ of the 80s with the Old Church Mouse Cookbook or of my childhood in the early 2000s; they both look very different from the modern version. But I am excited to see where this next chapter with Mayden and Sami will take us, as we continue to adapt old recipes and share them with the resilience and love that All Saints’ has brought into my life and Cabarrus County.