Many churches pay respect to their most senior members, but Good Shepherd Episcopal Church Hayesville also tries to keep them involved in church life. On July 17, more than 25 members ages 75 and up were honored at a luncheon in the Parish Hall, asked to express their feelings about their church, and invited to tell their life stories for a memory book. Three of the honored guests were original members of Good Shepherd: Ben Holt, Becky Van Gorder, and Danny Wilson.
At the luncheon the elders had the full attention of new Rector Father Bill Breedlove, who saw the occasion as an opportunity to know them better. Father Bill asked them, "What do you love most about this church?" and "What do you want Good Shepherd to be like 100 years from now?" Adelaide Fullilove, accompanied by Anne Hourdequin, led the guests in singing "Give Me That Old Time Religion" and "He's Got the Whole World in HIs Hands," and Lois Ann Wetzel sang a rousing rendition of "God Bless America."
Fay Hobbs, chairwoman of the Older Adults Ministry, explains that the luncheon is not just an occasion to honor these folks but also an effort to keep them actively involved. Most are present in the pews on Sundays, they have strong opinions to express, and they work in church ministries. Some take communion on Sunday afternoons to shut-ins; other drive Meals on Wheels or participate in the prayers of Daughters of the King.
The tradition of feting the older members and listening to their stories was begun in 2011 when the former Rector, Father John Rice, was preparing to retire from Good Shepherd. Some feared that with the departure of their beloved priest, the stories of their lives and accomplishments would be forgotten. So a series of interviews to listen to their stories began.
Now 29 of these stories are written and, accompanied by color photographs that capture the folks in special moments of their lives, mounted in a notebook that resides in the church library. After Wednesday's luncheon, more stories will be written and added to the book. Reading them reveals that each individual is an interesting person who has lived a full life. The stories explain how many of these folks came to our area from all over the US and then found Good Shepherd, why some are called by unusual nicknames, how one flew 35 years for Delta airlines, another collects fine vintage cars. One woman and her husband adopted a baby boy and later taught him to farm; another started a Red Hat Society in Hiawassee. Each is a real person worth recognition by younger members of Good Shepherd.