This is something I presented at our church a few months ago for our 50th Anniversary as Hewett Memorial United Methodist Church:
Jeff asked me to share what Hewett means to me, what it has meant to me through the years. And that got me to thinking about how we even came to be at Hewett at all.
I was raised in the Methodist Church, and we went to church every Sunday. My mother and father were very active in every church we attended. They were even charter members of a Methodist church in Huntsville. So I certainly knew what church was. David had attended a Lutheran church as a child with his grandmother and had joined my church before we got married.
In spite of our church life history, we did not go to church in our early married life. We just didn’t see the need. But when our son, Mark, was about 2 years old, that changed. We wanted Mark to be raised in church. As parents, we saw the need for church differently. So I started praying for a church that we could join. We lived in Birmingham at that time, and we visited several churches. None fit. Not even close. We were getting discouraged and had about given up.
About that time, we moved to Albertville. I was three months away from having our daughter Alice, and I was still praying for a church. When a neighbor invited us to Hewett, I was hoping that this was the answer to my prayer. But, as usual, God gave me so much more than I had asked for.
I figured we would come to Sunday School, Mark was 2 ½ so he would probably go to the nursery and play with the other children there, and after Sunday School comes church, so David and I would stay for the service to give Mark the opportunity to play with the other children in the nursery. Sounds like day care, doesn’t it?
But, looking back, I can see that even though we felt compelled to go back to church for our children, God was setting us up for much more. From the first moment we were here, the love of Christ was shown to us. As I mentioned, I was 6 months pregnant with our daughter when we first came to Hewett. Some of the ladies here decided to have a baby shower for me. They didn’t know me, they didn’t know if we would continue coming to Hewett. They just saw a young woman in need of a baby shower. I still remember that evening. I can show you the house where it was held. I can tell you many of the names of the women there – Jo Anne Strange, June Denney, Flo Rains, Nancy Beason, Ina Chandler, Mrs. Wood, Jean Machem. Wow! Showing such care to a young mother in a new town, at a new church. That’s been 34 years ago, and I can still remember how wonderful it made me feel.
So we did stay at Hewett for many years, and during that time, I was in many Bible studies, prayer groups, and Sunday School classes. The women of this church didn’t know it, and I didn’t know it at the time, but I was watching them and learning from them what it means to be a Christian woman. As a young adult, I had a lot to learn, but this church had a lot to give. You could say I was mentored by the women of Hewett.
Let me give you an example: in 1982, we got word that David’s mother had had a heart attack while in Brownsville, Texas. Now, this was before the internet and cell phones. It was also before open heart surgery, so it was a very serious condition. We really didn’t know much other than she was in a small hospital near Brownsville. This was the first big crisis that David and I had ever had to handle, and we just didn’t know what to do. Should we go out there to Texas to see her, should we stay here and wait? David’s dad had told us not to come, that he would keep us informed. But we both independently felt compelled to go. We didn’t have the money for plane tickets, we would both have to take off work which at that point was not easy, there were a hundred reasons not to go.
Then we started getting calls from our church family. We had offers to keep our children while we were in Texas. June Denny called me to say that she and Ray would take our turn at cleaning the church that week. I’m not going to say that we flew all the way to Texas just to get out of cleaning the church, but that call kind of decided it for us. If God was prompting someone to vacuum the church for us, then we needed to do our part and get on a plane.
So we did. We had a great visit with David’s mom and dad. His mom’s condition was very good. In fact, a few days after we returned home, she was discharged from the hospital and would be coming back to their home in Huntsville in just a few weeks. Except she didn’t make it. Just a few days before starting back, she suddenly passed away with another heart attack. She was 55 years old.
Once again, the folks at Hewett came through. We had food brought to us, people came to the funeral home in Huntsville for the visitation and the funeral. I remember that the pastor at that time, Larry Wright, checked on us frequently and was always ready to listen or to just talk. It was a hard time. But we got through it through God’s help that came through God’s people here at Hewett.
I have many memories of this church. Having the Soup and Cornbread Lunch using the old kitchen and the oven catching on fire when we were warming up cornbread. Having a women’s retreat at Camp Sumatanga and being asked to quiet down by a youth leader trying to sleep in the next hall.
I am hoping that David and I have been able to give to this church just a portion of what we have received. We sure can’t match it. You can’t outgive God. But let me tell you this, Hewett: You have been used by God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. There isn’t anything better than that.