Name: Edith Heller
Years with Grace-St. Luke’s Episcopal Church: 74 - My grandparents went to Grace Church, and my parents were the first couple to be married at Grace-St. Luke’s Episcopal Church. We have married six family members and buried 14 here from our beautiful sanctuary.
What does the Grace-St. Luke’s Episcopal Church community mean to you?
Grace-St. Luke’s Episcopal Church (GSL) is my faith home. It is here that I learned the Bible stories, love of church members, grew in spirit and faith, and learned to follow Jesus. The GSL community supports my need for community outreach, service, and love/dignity of all human beings.
The vision of Grace-St. Luke’s Parish is to be a thriving community of hope, belonging, and healing through worship, parish life, and service, and who rejoices in the love of Jesus to transform the world. How is Grace-St. Luke’s helping you to be a servant in the community? Why is this important to you?
God blessed me with the gifts of organization, vision, and compassion. This has enabled me to accept leadership roles in ministry at GSL over the decades. Teaching 6th grade Sunday School class was the first challenge – I learned to listen and laugh. Festival of Arts in Religion – I helped our artisan community during the recession and exhibited top quality religious art for public view. On the Vestry, my main accomplishment was helping the lawyer rewrite our outdated Endowment Trust – I learned patience and God’s grace in compromise. I worked on the Grand Old Bazaar for 40 years, making crafts, baked goods, and a special luncheon – I made lifetime friends and raised money for those in need in Memphis. Grace Builders was my favorite project, work between GSL and United Housing, Inc. in 2014 to renovate a vacant house for a single mom and first time home buyer – all GSL generations worked side by side to knock down cabinets, pull carpet, paint walls, lay tiles, scrub floors, pressure wash, build a deck and a fence, install new appliances, and landscape. Parishioners provided lunches and snacks, our clergy urged us onward, and we finished with a house blessing. Working together, we made new friends, learned new skills, laughed handily, and praised God. I am proud to report that the owner of the home has never missed a payment, is raising two sons and two dogs, and is a good neighbor in her Frayser cul-de-sac. Janet Tate and I started the Anglican Festival, celebrating our 16th century history with a festival, street closings, banquets, period plays, street vendors and costumes for a king, queen, royalty, clergy, humble vendors, and beggars – all done by GSL parishioners. We raised substantial funds for a designated charity each year, but the labor toll for this huge event was hard. I learned to be careful with our visions. Through the Pastoral Care team, focused on making calls, cards, flowers and meals for sick, shut ins, and new families – I learned internal GSL grace and timely caring support. Of course, much fun was had in decorating for shrimp dinners, receptions, and holiday Altar Guild – especially the Chrismons tree for 30 years. Lastly, and closest to my heart for twenty years is More Than A Meal, our ministry of hospitality every Sunday afternoon feeding the homeless and needy in midtown. Over 300 volunteers assist in cooking, setup, serving, Prayers of the People, and cleanup from GSL and 5 churches. Through More Than a Meal, I have learned that my fear of homeless beggars in Seessel’s parking lot could be changed with God’s love and openness of heart. I have seen transformation in lives, goodness, and love among strangers. I have seen Jesus in tattered clothes walking to a dinner party at GSL. Why is all this important to me? God calls me to be the hands and feet of Jesus in this world. I have a happy and grateful heart.
What have you learned from your servant ministry work?
I have learned the Baptismal Covenant and live the pledged teachings of my parents and Godparents. I will proclaim the Word, seek, and serve loving neighbors as myself, and strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being.
My baptism life and prayers are:
Why (or how) would you encourage other members of our parish to dedicate some of their time to Grace-St. Luke’s Servant Ministry partners?
Faith is a life journey with ups, downs, twists, and turns, but always with God at your side as you learn the Baptismal life. Time is short, so we must go forth to love and serve the Lord with gladness and openness of heart. I have been blessed with my seven decades of love from liturgy and for GSL. With declining health over the past four years, I have quit many activities and replaced them with prayer, thanksgiving, memories of GSL outreach events, seeking new participants for the journey and holding close to Jesus. Micah 6:8 “Act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God.” It’s a very good life. Try it!
To learn more about how you can volunteer your time, talents, and treasures to More Than a Meal or any other GSL Outreach ministry, click here.