Posts Tagged ‘ecumenical ministry’

Good Neighbors

By Rachel Allee. Photos by Skyler Cumbia.

Mary Margaret Shannon is not Irish by birth, but you wouldn’t know it. Her eyes smile and sparkle as she vividly describes the years she lived in Ireland, working for the Irish American Cultural Institute by hosting visiting American students in the home she shared with her husband. The Minnesota native has lived in Richmond – her mother’s hometown – for some years now, but has not slowed down very much. Activity is a virtue to Mary Margaret, who regularly volunteers at Retreat Doctors’ Hospital and attends functions at the Virginia Historical Society and the Library of Virginia.

Todd Brooker and Mary Margaret Shannon

Todd Brooker and Mary Margaret Shannon

Over the past several years, through friendships with First Baptist members Mary Hiteman and Phyllis Wilson, Mary Margaret has added activities at FBC to her list. From Classics in the Courtyard, to various church services, to the Christmas High Tea, sponsored by FLO, she has enjoyed getting to know church members. “Everybody’s so friendly,” she says. “This is such an active church.”

FBC members can be forgiven for not instantly recognizing her name; Mary Margaret is actually a longtime member of St. Benedict Catholic Church in the Fan. Though already familiar with FBC through Phyllis and Mary, her impressions of the church grew a couple of years ago because of a simple kindness by Todd Brooker, who operates the VMFA parking deck shuttle each Sunday.

On a particular Sunday filled with nasty weather, Mary Margaret was walking home from St. Benedict by taking her usual route near the VMFA, when Todd pulled alongside her and stopped the shuttle. “He opened the door and asked me if I would like a lift,” she recounts. “It was bad weather, so I said thank you. Then I said, ‘I don’t go to First Baptist’ but he said it was alright, and so I got on.”

According to Todd, It was impossible not to help her. “I felt sorry for her,” he says. “It was raining and she was an elderly lady without an umbrella. She was just trying to hold something over her head.”

Mary Margaret felt a little unsure about what had happened, however. “The fact that I wasn’t a member here, would they have any difficulty about picking up somebody who’s not coming to this church?” she remembers thinking. “I turned him down the Sunday after because I was worried,” she says. “I turned him down a couple of times and I hoped he could figure out why I was doing it.”

She smiles as she relates the next part. “But I began to think, what would Jesus do? He would do the same as that young fellow! I didn’t want him to feel I was brushing him off, so I thought I’ll just sit on [the shuttle] and get off at FBC and walk back home. Then he stopped right at my house, and I thought, ‘Now what?’” So she made one more effort: “I said I was going to ride around, but then he said this was where I lived. So that’s the way it’s been,” she laughs.

She and Todd have gotten to know each other over time, and both are pleased with the current arrangements. “She is such a nice lady, very grandmotherly, always talkative,” he says.

Mary Margaret is still a member of St. Benedict and rides the FBC shuttle just periodically, but she is grateful for Todd’s small yet gracious act of kindness. “I thought it was very good,” says the lady who volunteers much of her time in service to others. “By doing such things, aren’t we being very ecumenical?”

Rachel Allee

Rachel Lewis Allee. Photo by Jonathan Allee.

Rachel and her husband, Jonathan, are new members of First Baptist and attend the Young Couples class. Rachel teaches eleventh and twelfth grade English and coaches softball at Richmond Christian School. Every now and then she has time to work in the garden, read and write fiction, and play the piano. She and Jonathan enjoy playing with their happy-go-lucky hound dog, Oliver, and hanging out at their cottage in Mechanicsville.

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