My Grandma Bolitho (my father’s mom) was very important to me growing up. I have always believed I caught my faith in God from her. She was one of the 13 founding members of her church in Clarenceville, Michigan – a small suburb near Detroit. She proudly stated that the church choir began in her living room, and she often brewed a cuppa tea for her pastor, Elsie Johns, at the end of a long day knocking on doors in the neighborhood. My grandmother lived to 106. The picture attached is of her 100th birthday party for which she received a proclamation naming her birthday Helen Bolitho day in Michigan for that particular year.
My grandmother had several favorite phrases and words that came from her homeland. She was born and raise in Newcastle England. She liked to watch the “dickie birds” in her bird bath and frequently called me Mrs. woman when I was just a little girl. One of her favorite sayings, however, had to do with the faith. She used to say, “You can be a Christian and not go to church, but you can be a better Christian if you do go to church.” My grandmother loved to go to church and went every Sunday without fail. She sang in the choir, participated in the women’s circles and helped serve the dinners for the “old people” late into her 90s. I do think her personal investment in church life made a difference in her life. She lived her faith in word and deed. I know very few people who loved as deeply and generously as she did.
I think my grandma discovered that faith is richer when we live in community with one another. We can read the Bible by ourselves, but when we read in the company of others, we gain new insights. We can pray by ourselves, but when we pray with others we are blessed by the presence of the spirit in unusual ways. We can volunteer at the local food distribution site, but when we do it with a sister or brother in the faith we find more joy in the giving of ourselves. We are nurtured in faith when we share that faith in community with others.
The writer of the letter to the Hebrews put it this way: ”Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” (Hebrews 12: 1-2a) I am giving thanks today for the people who have run this race with me in the past and for all of you who run this race with me today.
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