Sometimes cookies and coffee speak the gospel in a way that words just can’t. It’s why our first response to news of grief is often to share food. It’s a tangible expression of our hearts hurting alongside the family that is burdened, and it’s an important way that we comfort one another.
...she understood better than many the opportunity to share Christ’s love at a family’s most difficult time.
Linda Brazel experienced this first hand when she lost her husband in 2010, and her family was blessed by folks in our church with a beautiful reception after his memorial, which allowed them precious time to visit with one another. She had been part of a Bereavement team for several years and knew their service was important, but this personal experience as a recipient of the same kindness she had been a part of giving brought a new appreciation for the ministry. Several years later, when Pastor Holly Wilson asked Linda to take a leadership role in revamping the Bereavement ministry, she understood better than many the opportunity to share Christ’s love at a family’s most difficult time.
Pastor Holly also asked a long-time friend, Donna Walker, to lead this new bereavement effort. Donna and her husband, Richard, had been members at Lakewood UMC, where both Pastor Holly and Pastor Ben once served. When the Walkers moved home to San Antonio, they found University church along with Pastors Ben and Holly. Donna had been part of a similar ministry at Lakewood, and so she has been an excellent source of knowledge and experience for the group.
Donna and Linda work closely with Director of Care and Community, Sarah Reiter, to make each memorial or funeral service reception full of comfort and the kind of joy that comes from remembering well the ones we love and knowing that this mortal life is not the end. From start to finish, the group of servants now known as Comfort & Joy plan, prepare, serve and clean up receptions for as few or as many as attend the funeral service. An army of folks contribute. With each memorial or funeral planned, a Sign-Up Genius gets sent to all on the Comfort & Joy team so that each food or beverage item is provided for the reception. Several hours before the funeral, Donna and/or Linda as well as 2-4 others arrive to prepare the reception, which includes lovely tablecloths, fresh flowers, a beautiful spread of food, and punch, water and coffee. Additionally, cookies and coffee are set up for the family in the parlor so that as they arrive, there is a bit of sugary comfort and warmth waiting for them. All of this is done with a happy heart and the hope of easing the burdens of those grieving loss.
"We get to show up the way a church is supposed to. We get to care for each other, sometimes even when we don’t know each other well. We get to BE the church.”
In her role, Sarah often meets with families to plan the funeral or memorial service, and she says that there is always a sigh of relief when a family realizes that the reception is taken care of, that this is one less thing they have to worry about during this difficult time. Sarah says that providing these funeral receptions is “a way we get to be a ‘smaller’ church. We get to show up the way a church is supposed to. We get to care for each other, sometimes even when we don’t know each other well. We get to BE the church.”
Sarah says it’s a delight to be in the kitchen with the crew preparing or cleaning up: “They care so much about this ministry. They care for each other, and they care for the families they are serving. It’s watching unconditional love in motion.”
“There is nothing better than giving of yourself to help others. That is my joy.”
In the short time that Comfort & Joy has been together, Linda says they have become an “amazing, giving team that is always ready to serve in any way needed. I am blessed to be a small part of it.” Donna, too, says, “There is nothing better than giving of yourself to help others. That is my joy.”