June 8th, 2021 by Tracy Harper
When I was a young mom in my late 20’s, I was a church attender, but not involved in anything but my presence each week. My son, Ian, was an infant and we frequented the nursery and a church pew. One day, out of the blue, I received a phone call at work. Fr. Andy, our Assistant Priest, wanted to meet me for lunch to discuss a problem. Curiously, I said “Okay.”
It was a nice lunch at First Watch in Maitland, where Fr. Andy laid out a scenario that startled me a bit. Our Preschool Director and our church’s Nursery Director were constantly at odds over the shared space between the two entities. I knew them both a little and was shocked that there would be issues between these two lovely Christian women, but, alas, they were human.
He went on to say that the church needed to build a bridge between the two. They needed someone who was willing to step in, make changes to the nursery without being a threat to the Nursery Director, but who was willing to understand the needs of the Preschool and the Church as a whole.
I had no clue what this “job” entailed or how I could possibly make a difference. I had no marketable skills with children. In fact, all I thought I could contribute was me as a person (a warm body as my boss used to say, when he would send associates to depositions to listen, but not ask too many questions).
The skillset I had was 1) I was a new mom 2) worked in law office administration. I left Fr. Andy and told him the standard, “I will pray about it” answer that I had heard others use in the past.
I went home that night and pondered what I could bring to the table with this situation. Why me, Lord? What good can I do? The questions haunted me for a few days. My then-husband had brought me into his family’s church, but then set me loose to do as I pleased there. I was pretty sure I had his blessing and support, so after a few days, I called Fr. Andy and said I was up to the challenge, whatever that may be. If I am being honest, it was scary!
I knew that our Nursery Director, Miss D, was a woman of little means. She was single with 4 daughters, but her mind was completely focused on Jesus and teaching all those entering her nursery space about His love. She was a kind soul, but the nursery was dingy, colorless, cluttered, and the only décor was a string of black and white cut-outs of the many Sunday School lessons she taught taped haphazardly to the walls.
The Preschool Director, Mrs. G, was a schoolteacher, a disciplined woman who wanted to see a bright and happy space that would be inviting to new families coming in on Sunday mornings. In her heart, she knew that love was being spread in the room, but she could not get past the aesthetics and that is where the battle lines were drawn.
I love color. I had an idea that would immediately make the room pop. I spent my Saturdays for a few weeks covering the huge, dingy bulletin board with a pretty fabric and made my own cut-out decorations.
Both Miss D and Mrs. G loved the improvements. I then added a nice schedule of the nursery volunteers onto the bulletin board. I called many moms and teens to see if they would be willing to take a turn. My goal was to get 25 people to do 2 weeks per year. I ended up with about 7 or 8 willing people, but they graciously rotated in and out.
Some of the moms had nicer cribs, so we swapped them out. Father Jim, our Rector, got us a nice carpet remnant and had it bound. We had a new rug! Little by little, the old toys were donated, the books were re-shelved, the room was cleared of clutter and both women were happy with the new space. Miss D was able to focus on teaching Sunday School to the Nursery children while teens and moms helped with childcare.
After about a year of being the nursery bridge, I became a Sunday School teacher. I was paired up with a woman who would become one of my closest forever friends. We served as a team for eight years!
One of the things I always tell myself (and my children), is if you don’t put your toe in the water, you can’t learn to swim. No one expects an Olympic athlete in the beginning, but how many Olympic swimmers would not be where they are if they hadn’t made the decision to put their toe in the water to take a dip in the pool?
Serving God and his people is now comfortable for me, but it wasn’t at the time. My confidence grew because the Holy Spirit was at work helping me to make something happen that was outside of my comfort level. I just needed an “ask” and a nudge to put my toe in the water.
To hear more from Tracy, listen to her message on serving, "Which Apron Will You Wear?"