ABC Homecoming 2010 Sunday, November 7
by Pastor George Van Alstine
Ruth Freas was part of ABC when I came here in 1972, but it took awhile for me to notice her. She was a background person and comfortable in that role. She was always at church services and functions, but she was so quiet you could easily be unaware of her presence. She was under five feet tall and weighed about 95 pounds. She reminded me of a little bird, one that only once in a while let out a tentative excuse-me chirp.
Ruth had been a member of ABC and, before the 1966 merger, Bethel Baptist Church since sometime in the 1940’s. She was never married, had no children and, to my knowledge, no nearby relatives. She supported herself, as long as she was physically able, by working as a housekeeper/maid in large homes around Pasadena. At the church, she always pitched in to help clean up after banquets and other events. She even surprised us by showing up for Saturday workdays, a tiny wisp of a presence among the burly men who came to pool their ignorance to fix stuff around the church building.
Toward the end of her life, we began to realize how important little Ruth was to the ABC family. She became a bit more outgoing and self-confident in her later years. At social gatherings, it didn’t take much prompting to get Ruth to recite from memory her favorite poem, “Old Gentleman Gray,” by the early twentieth century author Edgar A. Guest. I can still see her standing on her toes, a twinkle in her eye, as she triumphantly belted out the last line, “If you want to be happy, give something away.”
Ruth Freas is part of my Homecoming nostalgia at ABC. It’s the living imprints of Ruth and many other “little people” in the congregation that have helped shape my view of how God works in and through a local church. The up-front people, the officers and leaders, the big personalities in the congregation are all very important as well, but I think it’s the consistent quiet presence of “average” believers like Ruth that is the glue that holds ABC together.
The other important element is time. Some people have come into the fellowship bringing outstanding gifts that have had dramatic effects on the church and its outreach, but circumstances may call them away in a year or two. We are thankful for every one of these special individuals God loans to us for awhile. But the Ruth-Freas-folk were there before and they’ll be there after. That’s why I believe they are the glue.
Ruth’s poet Edgar A. Guest has given us another wonderful line: “It takes a heap o’ livin’ in a house t’ make it home.” ABC is a fine spiritual house, but it takes a “heap o’ livin’”— lots of hours spent by lots of folk with lots of other folk for lots of years in lots of situations — to make ABC a spiritual home.
If you have ABC memories of certain people who have influenced your life, please take a few moments to write down your thoughts. You may bring them with you on Sunday, November 7, or you may send us a note by e-mail or regular mail. We’d love to post all these notes to reflect the “heap o’ livin’” that makes ABC a spiritual home to so many of us.