So, we checked in with Melissa Phenicie, who is the “Person of Passion” at Asbury, coordinating the Stand in the Gap for Widows program there. (She also happens to be a valuable member of our staff!) Keep scrolling to see our questions and her answers.
#1 From your perspective as the lay leader in charge of this ministry, tell us about the partnership between Stand in the Gap for Widows and Asbury United Methodist Church.
We officially became partners in 2014. We started with 3 monthly support groups of about 4 people each. Now we support close to 100 widows in our church. We also have grown to host 2 annual events (although COVID messed with that last year). These are for any widow, not just those who attend our church. At our first event we had about 80 ladies. Lately, we’ve had to cap attendance at 400.
In everything we do, we’ve learned that no one can support a widow like another widow. So there is no counseling, directing, steering toward a predetermined goal, no manipulation or fixing–just a complete reliance on God to work among the women.
Stand in the Gap helps us lay a strong foundation for this ministry and pastoral leadership at Asbury has been so supportive of what we do and why we do it.
#2 What impact have you seen on the ladies involved?
Our precious widows have shared that the insights and experiences of their fellow widows have been invaluable. When they talk to each other, it doesn’t matter what stage of grief they are in because either someone else has been through it, or they have a word for her. Everyone walks this path differently, but these support groups are a place they can be real. Every time they are together, they come away refreshed which strengthens their faith. God encourages them through each other.
#3 What can a person do for a widow on Valentine's Day?
Remember her and acknowledge her loss. So often when a person passes away, we show up with casseroles, flowers, and cards for the first few weeks. But after a while, we try not to bring up his name because we don’t want to make her sad. The truth is, she always wants him to be remembered. We aren’t “protecting” her by failing to acknowledge her loss, even if it’s been months or years.
Our annual Valentine’s event for widows looks a little different this year. We are hosting two options (socially distant in-person event and a drive-through meal and Valentine pick up) but our goal is the same–to show widows that they are cherished and to acknowledge their loss. So I’d suggest that you reach out to a widow in your life this Valentine’s Day and tell her a funny or sweet story that you remember about her husband. By doing so, you are showing her that he isn’t forgotten and that she is loved.
#4 Do you need any volunteers?
I believe we are all set for Valentine’s event volunteers. But we absolutely could not do this without the help of more than 100 volunteers! If you’d like to be involved in our next event or get more information about starting a Stand in the Gap for Widows ministry in your church, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org!