Recently, we received an email at the church from someone whom we’ve never met. It shared a note of thanksgiving for our church’s openness in playing a role in the burial of the author’s brother. It was a genuinely heartfelt note… and it was sent to the wrong church.
She had given us her brother’s name so I searched and searched to find any information I could, only to come up empty. Not only were we not holding a funeral service at Newman UCC for her brother… we had no idea who he was.
And to complicate things, the mystery man’s sister had made a substantial financial gift to our church through our online giving option on our website.
We weren’t burying her brother.
We aren’t the church she was thinking of.
And now we have all of this money that she gave to us thinking we were someone else.
So I contacted her. I shared my condolences on the loss of her brother. I told her that we had received her generous financial contribution and that perhaps she had us confused with another church. Could it be that her contribution was meant for them?
To which she responded:
"That was the information I had gotten. But no matter, looking at your services to the congregation and the public, I am happy to help in this way. Please accept and use as needed."
She doesn’t know us.
We don’t know her.
We are the wrong church.
And yet, this stranger found it in her heart to support our shared ministries with a generous contribution because she was pleased to see what we do as a church by looking at our website.
If we are in need of a reminder of how important our work and ministry is to the world, may this be it.
Sometimes it can be so easy to lose sight of why it is we do the things we do. We forget how much of an impact we can have on the lives of others. Until something like this happens, it brings it all into perspective.
Here at Newman UCC we have been striving to live according to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Through our shared hard work and incredible ministries, lives continue to be changed and, dare I say, the world is becoming a better place.
To all of you who have given so much of yourselves, countless hours of volunteering, generous financial commitments, sharing your various talents and skills… this stranger’s contribution is in recognition of all that you’ve done… all that you do. Thank you!
On behalf of the lives you are touching… thank you.
On behalf of the many strangers who drive past our church, who browse our website or Facebook page… thank you.
On behalf of the countless number of others nationwide AND worldwide whose lives are impacted through your generosity… thank you.
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
And may God continue to lead us into more and more opportunities to make our faith visible… not knowing exactly who it is that will be touched by it. And may the world continue to heal through all that we do.
The Rev. Timoth Sylvia is the Senior Minister at Newman Congregational Church UCC in Rumford, RI.