Rector's Blog: Sharing God Moments
This week, the Rev. Philip DeVaul, sat down with long-time parishioner, Betsy Schram, as she shared the story of her daughter, Katherine, calling her after worshiping at the Washington National Cathedral in June to hear Redeemer's choirs. Below is the transcript of that story-sharing.
PHILIP: We’re on this story-sharing initiative, where we’re getting people to share their stories because everyone here at Redeemer has a reason why they’re here. And a lot of times we pick one or two people to tell, but really, everyone here has a reason to tell. So, we’ve got these questions that we’ve posted asking people about, you know, really what Redeemer means to them and why this community? What it is about this community. And you reached out and said that you have, I mean, you have many, many stories.
BETSY: But I have a wonderful story.
PHILIP: But how long have you been at Redeemer?
BETSY: Um, I am currently 67 and I would say that probably 57 of those years have been with Redeemer.
PHILIP: Yeah, so you have stories about why this place matters to you.
PHILIP: But you have a very specific story that happened recently.
PHILIP: And I’ve heard a little bit of it, but I’d love to hear you tell it.
BETSY: So, Phil, imagine getting a phone call from your 32-year-old daughter, saying “Can I share a God moment with you?”
BETSY: It meant the world. She grew up here at Redeemer. The choir was very much a part of her life as that’s where she discovered her gift of music. But she had been to the National Cathedral and had heard Redeemer’s choir sing. What meant the world to her was that when she came in so many people recognized her, immediately spoke to her, hugged her, reached out to her. And her husband even took note of the fact that you, Phil, turned around, recognized him, he is not a regular at Redeemer, but he had been in your home, and you came running over and embraced both of them. And Katherine’s immediate response was, “Mom, I realized I have a church, but I don’t have a community, here in Virginia.” And she knows that Redeemer is her community, Redeemer is her family. And they made her feel so much a part of a family. And you went as far as to invite her to come to dinner. And even, you know, again, her husband didn’t grow up here, but he was really caught by the warmth and love that was given to them.
PHILIP: Yeah. I remember that moment, so I am glad that it meant to her what it meant to her and I love hearing you tell the story. And, by the way, kudos to you for having the kind of relationship with your daughter where she expects, first of all she has a language for God moments, because not everyone even has that language. . .
PHILIP: And then she wanted to share that with you and that’s amazing. And even though you and Tom weren’t at the National Cathedral when the choir was there, that she felt connected enough with Redeemer that she found a way to get there is so awesome. And I remember seeing her and her husband and I ran up to them, as you said, I remember that because I was excited to see them, and she introduced herself to me. And she was like, you know, I’m Kath… and I was like, yeah, no, I know who you are, I’m very happy that you’re here. So, it was really a beautiful moment from my end and I think helps me, you know I’m still a newcomer at this church in my mind, I mean it’s just coming up on three years here, but your daughter and Cynthia Williams’ daughter who was also in attendance. . .
BETSY: Lee Ann.
PHILIP: Lee Ann, they were both there and though I’ve met both of them, neither of them have lived in Cincinnati and been regular attenders at Redeemer since I’ve been here, right?
PHILIP: So, it was for me a reminder of the power of this community that even when people have left, that when we’re in DC, people will show up and figure a way to be a part of what ever is happening here. I just love that so much. But I’m really grateful for that story. It speaks volumes about what impact the music at this church has had.
BETSY: Oh, there’s such a history. Katherine tried to deny her gift when she went off to college. And said, “I’ll never support myself with music, so why should I study music.” And at the end of her sophomore year she called and said, “Is it okay if I double major in voice and . . .?” So, it was, yes, that was all grounded here.
PHILIP: So, did she sing . . .?
BETSY: She actually started with Loretta in the choir but studied under Mary Southworth as a voice teacher.
PHILIP: Yeah, Mary’s been a great mentor to a lot of people at this church. And continues to be.
BETSY: Yes. And Mary was one of the people that greeted her warmly in DC.
PHILIP: Yes, of course, because she was there and her daughters were singing in the choir, because it goes on.
BETSY: It goes on.
PHILIP: So, did she sing in the choir when, or just, she sang, she had private lessons?
BETSY: No. She started, actually she bugged Loretta, because Loretta said she had to be older to join the choir. And so, she kept pushing her and pushing her and Loretta finally let her start singing.
BETSY: And then she had a ribbon program at that time where each year you had to study certain parts of music history in order to get different colored ribbons. And so, Katherine was the most persistent of her students and worked herself up to, and it’s the royal church program of music or something, I don’t know. She did a summer program in Atlanta to earn another ribbon and then she ultimately got the, I can’t remember if it was a light blue or a purple ribbon, at the end but she got to wear that when she sang in the choir and that meant the world to her.
PHILIP: Oh wow. So, how old was she when she started singing in the choir?
BETSY: When she started singing at the church.
BETSY: And then she started doing solos when she was 14.
PHILIP: Wow. So, she really got an early start here and that became a big part of her life.
PHILIP: So when you think about stories like that and you have that moment where your daughter calls you up on the phone and says, “I have a God moment to share” and it’s connected to this church, still after all these years. What does that do to you as a mother, but also as a member of Redeemer? When we talk about all this church means to you, what happens in your heart and in your head around that?
BETSY: Oh, there are so many times that we have used that language, “sharing God moments,” and some of my friends get it, who are not at Redeemer, but when I come into Redeemer and I use the term, people look at me and say, “Oh, please, tell me, what happened!” And it just means the world to be able to say you know that God is in your midst when you’re in this community, when you’re in this family. And I am so very thankful that I can use that kind of language and say I feel God’s presence when… and we can talk about any number of things.
PHILIP: And I hear you, and I think I hear you saying, not only can you say that in this space, but you’re in a community where people understand what you’re . . .
PHILIP: They don’t just accept it or welcome it, but they actually understand what you’re talking about and then can say, oh, let me tell you where I’ve seen . . .
BETSY: That’s the best part, is that we can invite one another to say, “Where have you seen God? This week? Today? Yesterday?”
PHILIP: It is so often in the people that I see it here. But to see it, I mean what I love about the story you told is, I mean at some level, you know, when we think about the program that gets put in place to try to really build up the choir and develop the choir and then have the choir go to DC and do that magnificent trip and all that, but that almost is like that’s a big program and a big to-do, but then to think, what I love about the story is that it grounds even that big event in what an individual experience it was.
PHILIP: I got to sing along with the choir in that and I was walking alongside one of our choir members and I said, “How about this?” and he said, “You know, it’s the opportunity of a lifetime.” So, you can realize what it meant for our choir to be able to do it. But then to have people who are part of the Redeemer family who are living in Virginia or DC or Maryland, who are finding a way to get there because it’s their place, their community, too, all these years later. That’s when it becomes personal and that’s where you see God working and I think that’s fantastic. Well, thank you for sharing that story.
BETSY: Oh, I just hope that we will get more God moments and have people recognize that God is in our midst.
PHILIP: I am not worried for a second that we’ll have the moments. The thing is for us to make sure we do the work to ensure we know it’s happening, is so important. Thank you so much.