a song for my sister

Tomorrow morning will mark the first Sunday in more than 28 years that my sister Marilyn hasn’t been responsible for assuring a smooth worship service at the First Baptist Church in Fort Dodge, Iowa. She retired this week, having invested nearly half her life as their church secretary and Christian ed director.

Those were her official titles. Several years ago, when she explained to me how her time at the church was spent, I suggested that faith-based social worker was probably a more accurate job description. For this is a church that has stepped in to fill the very human needs created when major industries leave a mid-size, midwestern town, one after another after another.

The sanctuary is within walking distance of the jail. So it is not uncommon for those newly released to stop by for necessities from The Clothes Closet. It has a van to transport grade-school children to and from their homes for a Wednesday evening God’s Kids session. Given the number of inner city families with too little food, that mid-week meal in a wholesome environment is a Godsend. Marilyn’s heart and hands have kept both services strong, countering the forces of a membership declining as loyal members have moved or passed away.

Newsletter, Vacation Bible School, weekly bulletins? Yes. Maintenance work overseen? Yes. Teachers needing coverage due to last-minute family demands? She’ll take care of it. And, for the past several years, her busy days have also included watchful attention to our mother’s and father’s needs as they have given their all to maintaining their independence.

Since this is as close to a confessional booth as I’m likely to get, given my own belief system, I need to admit this: I have been Marilyn’s self-designated “altar ego” for the past decade or so. I considered it my divine duty to lighten the load by suggesting via phone what she might have thought but would never have said. Furnace malfunction sending odors throughout the building? Sounded suspiciously like fire and brimstone to me. You get the point. We would laugh, and back to work we’d both go.

Those of us in the Thompson tribe have a saying: if every family were issued a Marilyn, the world would be a far better, kinder, more peaceful place. 

So, Queen o’ Birthday Cake Baking, Calmer of Sisters Having Meltdowns, Navigator of Troubled Times and Person Who Speaks Her Faith Without Saying A Word: congratulations on this milestone.

Here’s a little song before you go:

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