Faces of First Christian Church - Merry Beth
This is the second in a series of stories about members of First Christian Church. We hope this will help you to get to know members of your church family better.
A WWII Prisoner of War, a name with an interesting spelling, and an inspirational project for Lent.
Those are just some of the reasons to know more about Merry Beth Henderson.
You can see the interesting spelling of her first name. But to know the why of the unique moniker, you have to go back 75 plus years to that WWII P.O.W. Merry Beth’s father, who was just 19 at the time, was captured by German soldiers at the Battle of the Bulge. During his year of imprisonment, he lost 100 pounds. After he was released, he was nervous and couldn’t eat. The concerned medical staff asked him if there was any food he’d like to try. He said he might like a milkshake. After that he was fed fresh fruit milk shakes several times a day and it worked. Milkshakes became a delicious symbol for Merry Beth’s family. Whenever there was something to celebrate it was always with a milkshake.
Years after his captivity, back in Kentucky and raising a family, Merry Beth’s father named his 3 daughters Sunny, Merry, and Robin Gay because he was happy and was putting his dark days behind him.
Whenever dark days descend on Merry Beth, she has found comfort at First Christian. Twenty-one years ago, Merry Beth decided to attend First Christian when she drove passed the church and saw there was an 8:30 a.m. service. After walking through the doors that first Sunday morning she has never left. She says, “I felt like I had come home again when I got to that church.”
During her early days at First Christian, Merry Beth says she really didn’t give herself to the church. “The church gave themselves to me,” she says.
In 2012, when her father was gravely ill and near death, a First
Christian member followed her into the parking lot, knocked on her car window and asked, “What can I do for you?” Merry Beth’s tearful response was simple. She said, “Please pray that he passes peacefully.” From that day forward she received telephone calls, cards, letters and church elders let her know she was in their prayers.
When her husband was undergoing bypass surgery, she turned to find her First Christian pastor there in the hospital hallway ready to lend support.
In October, Merry Beth lost her 93-year-old mother to Covid. Again, the need for the First Christian congregation is great.
Merry Beth has also given a great deal to First Christian. She’s been a worship leader, a deacon, and she’s served on the board. Besides the caring church family, Merry Beth’s list of likes about First Christian is long including the church’s open table commitment, the music, and the staff.
Now, she has devised a Lenten project that is unique and at the same time just what our evolving church needs. Merry Beth says she was never very good at giving up something for Lent. So, this year she took a different approach. Every day during Lent Merry Beth is writing emails to members of the congregation. Forty days, 40 people she touches virtually. Forty people she tells she’s thinking about them. Forty people who know more about another member of our church family.
Merry Beth says her intent was to make someone feel special. I know firsthand that she most definitely has. However, there’s been a benefit to Merry Beth herself that she didn’t expect. She says of her letters, “They have opened doors to new friendships.”
Lent is the time when we reflect on what it means to be a follower of Christ. In Romans 15:2 it says, “Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up.” Merry Beth Henderson is living those words this Lenten season.
By the way, anyone who wants to “please” Merry Beth, just bring her a milkshake.