Ministry Moment: Elizabeth Billings
October 10, 2019
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My name is Beth Billings and I have been a member of Trinity Cathedral for 12 years. This past May, I was honored to be elected to your Vestry. I also have the privilege of serving on the Stewardship committee.
You see, I am a cradle Episcopalian, but in kind of a different way than you might think, my dad was Episcopalian and my mom was Jewish, but I did not set foot in church or temple until I was 10. We had moved around a lot, but when I turned 10, we moved back to Chicago, where I was born, and stayed for the summer with my grandparents and my Auntie Noëlle.
Auntie Noëlle was a tiny British woman, a second cousin of my grandmother’s, who had been a nurse in London during the Blitz and then a Nurse midwife afterward. She had come to stay with my great-grandparents in their last years and illnesses and was my grandmother’s closest friend. In fact, my mother had some medical issues when I was tiny, and it often fell to Auntie Noëlle to take care of me, so she was a wonderful part of my life from the very beginning. Noëlle was a true churchwoman, attending regularly, serving on the Altar Guild and volunteering weekly in preparation for the annual church rummage sale. She knew everyone and everyone loved her. She started taking me with her to church every Sunday when we lived with them, and then because I loved it, every Sunday from then on after we moved into our new house. She signed me up for Sunday School and helped make sure I was able to participate. When I asked to be baptized, reasonably assuming that my parents had not bothered, it was Noëlle I asked to be my Godmother. That’s when she confessed that she had already baptized me years before when she took care of me as a newborn. It turned out I had been a member of the church all along.
When she first brought me to church, Noëlle gave me the money to put into the collection, but when I was baptized, she helped me to make my own pledge, get my own set of envelopes and faithfully checked that I had brought it with me each week when we set off for church. It was 50¢ and it was half my allowance.
To me, giving to church is a lifelong practice. To me, stewardship is the care we take to ensure that our church will last. As a place has been made for us and kept for us by generations before, it is the place we keep for the generations to come. It puts our money where our mouth is in terms of what we value of the mission and traditions of our faith. Half my allowance was a lot for me then. Planning to increase my pledge this year is a lot for me now, but that is the challenge I set for myself.
I don’t talk a lot about my personal relationship with God, and like many, I struggle with what I believe, but these words of Teresa of Avila speak right to my heart:
“Christ has no body now but yours, No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes which he looks with compassion on this world, yours are the feet with which he walks to do good, yours are the hands with which he blesses all the world. Yours are the eyes, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body.”
I believe these words and I challenge myself to do more than I am comfortable with every day, to rise to the challenge to serve God in my neighbor every day, to make Auntie Noëlle proud.
Trinity Cathedral, October 10, 2019