First United Methodist Church of Ada, Oklahoma lost one of its matriarchs this past week. Jane Muntz was our oldest living, and longest tenured member. At 100 years old, Ms. Jane was an absolute joy! Until the last year or so it was common to find Ms. Jane standing at the big sink in the kitchen washing dishes after a funeral dinner. It was for her that we began our live-streaming ministry, which averages about 15 worshippers each week. She is a namesake of our church’s annual lecture series. The church triumphant gained a gem as the people of Ada First lost a matriarch.

As I’ve reflected upon Ms. Jane’s passing, I have been reminded of the great women who have provided excellent service and leadership to the Body of Christ in the other churches I’ve served. Thanks for allowing me to share their names and brief memories.

Margaret Davis was a tireless worker for the Lord at First UMC Muskogee, OK. Since this was my home church, I’d known Margaret my whole life. Margaret, with her husband Bill, was always around the church fixing or sprucing up something. She was present so often, you sometimes wondered if she ever went home. When you are involved with the daily “goins on” of the church, you quickly discover how much we need people like Margaret. What a great example she provided (and in my memories still provides) the church she loved!

Carolyn Garrett was a regular part of my days at St. Paul’s UMC in Okemah, OK. Carolyn did everything from building maintenance to check signing to money counting, and anything else that needed to be done. When I officiated her funeral service, I made the observation that with the exception of my wife I had spent more time with Carolyn than any other female during those years of life. I was sitting with Carolyn’s husband and granddaughter at her bedside when she joined the Church Triumphant. As we circled up to pray, I broke down and had to be comforted by her husband C.J. Like Margaret in Muskogee and Jane in Ada, Carolyn was a great blessing to her church and an example for all to follow.

Helen Nygard is still living and serving at First UMC in Okmulgee, OK. I first met Helen in 1986 at church camp. She was a youth leader for the Okmulgee church and I was an incoming 7th grader. My senior year in high school Helen was my small group leader, and my first year as a small group leader Helen was my co-leader. Helen has served in many, many capacities in the church. Today her focus is the food pantry. Under her leadership the pantry ministry has flourished into a true ministry instead of simply a social service agency giving a handout. Even in her golden years Helen, with various health issues, is still going strong. I pray She remains in the “living” matriarch status for a long time.

Every church has matriarchs: great women of faith who serve the church in so many ways. I give thanks to the Lord for women like Margaret, Carolyn, Helen and Jane. I hope my reflections lead you to think of those in your church(es) that have played a significant role…and give thanks to the Lord for them!