Growing up at Calvary, Stephanie Gee remembers singing in the choir, Christmas pageants and mission trips to Arizona, Belize and Jamaica. Kimberly Pate, her friend, remembers Sunday school lessons, her confirmation, and singing hymns as Dorothy Pett and Dick Clark played piano and led the youth in music.
While those activities helped cultivate their faith and commitment to the church, it was the support the women received after their mothers died that deepened their appreciation for Calvary and furthered their involvement at the church.
Stephanie was 26 when her mother, Sonia, lost her battle with breast cancer in 2009. In the wake of her mother’s death, Calvary’s Deacons helped organize a reception to celebrate her life. Dr. James Emerson, the church’s then Pastor Emeritus, as well as Dr. Laird Stuart and Rev. Catherine Oliver, prayed with her family. And members of the congregation brought food to her family’s house during their time of grief.
The death tested Stephanie’s faith. She faced the challenge that confronts many people who have lost a loved one: Should she blame God for taking her mother’s life, or find comfort in her faith?
In honor of her mother, who was active at the church, Stephanie chose to deepen her involvement at Calvary. She went from going to church for the social hour to listening more closely to scripture. She became an Elder, joined the Faith in Action team and assumed leadership of international missions, helping guide Calvary as it became a sanctuary church.
“Through her example, my mother helped plant the seed for my faith, and being an Elder has continued to grow it,” said Stephanie.
In 2016, when Kimberly was 34 her mother, Joy, was hospitalized and unexpectedly died. Calvary’s Deacons brought casseroles, roast chicken and enough food to last for three weeks. Victor Floyd stopped by the house to check on the family and put together a moving service to celebrate Joy’s life.
The outpouring of support put new significance in Kimberly’s commitment to become a Deacon. She had a deeper appreciation for what Deacons do and the role Calvary plays in the lives of parishioners facing hardships.
Because of her experience, Kimberly brought increased empathy to her outreach as a Deacon. She joined other Deacons in calling parishioners who haven’t attended church lately to ask how they’re doing. She began making her mother’s chicken and artichoke casserole for families who lost a loved one.
“Being a Deacon gives me an outlet to be more like my mom, by caring and taking action when someone is in need,” Kimberly said.
Stephanie and Kimberly donate more than time to Calvary. They pledge each year, believing that their financial commitment allows the church to support its work for the congregation and wider community.
“I give to Calvary because, even if we sometimes may disagree, the community is my family who I love and want to support,” Stephanie said.