Celebrating the moms in our lives
Her name was Gwen. Gwen Bradley. She was born in England but immigrated to the U.S. when she was five. When it came time for university, she opted to go to England to train to be a nanny for royalty at the prestigious Nordland Institute, the first American student to attend there. Upon receiving her diploma, she was offered a contract to be the nanny for the children of a high-ranking naval officer in San Diego.
Instead… she chose to take a $75/month job as a kindergarten teacher, substituting for someone who had contracted a sudden illness. That two-month substitute job was the beginning of a lifetime of teaching and caring for children. In Yakima, my hometown, Gwen moved into leadership in the school district. She was in charge of training reading teachers. She was administrator of Head Start. Her whole life aim was to “train up a child in the way they should go.”
At Westminster Presbyterian in Yakima, my home church, Gwen took charge of the Crib Room with a ferocious devotion. She taught helpers how to comfort babies. She taught worried parents how to leave their crying babies in her arms, knowing they would be fine. You never saw her at a church without a baby in her arms. When she attended worship services, she would have a row of kids with her, up front and center… the children of grownups otherwise occupied during the service. These kids learned how to worship with Gwen Bradley.
Gwen helped shape my life. First as a child… and later, as a young man considering ministry. She was an elder at that time and was often assigned to “deal” with me… particularly when some of my youth ministry ideas got a little out of hand. Gwen was sometimes my chastiser; she was always my champion.
Gwen Bradley was what I call a “Church Mother.” A bigger-than-life presence who shaped the culture and lives of the hundreds she touched. Ironically, Gwen never married, never had any children of her own. But we were her children. I was one of her children. And I am what I am today, in part, because of my Church Mother, Gwen Bradley.
This Mother’s Day weekend, we are going to celebrate the moms in our lives. I have a wonderful mom. I am married to a wonderful mom. I have a daughter-in-law who is a wonderful mom. All will be celebrated. AND… I also have Church Mothers: Gwen, Anita, Shirley and others… whom God used to form me… and the countless others who were their “kids.” Come… join me in this celebration!
Photo by Benjamin Manley on Unsplash