Johnson celebrated for 50 years of Altar Guild service

On March 4, 2018, during his annual visitation to Church of the Advent in Brownsville, Bishop David Reed honored Mary Anita Johnson for 50 years of service in the Altar Guild. He read his letter commemorating this milestone during the worship service, and said, “For 50 years, by grace, you have served faithfully as a member of the Altar Guild of Church of the Advent -- an enduring and beautiful example of Christian service for the whole Church. 

mary-anita-johnson.jpg"Saturday morning set up, brass polishing, Sunday clean up after three services, mid-week Holy Communions, Ash Wednesdays, Holy Weeks, Easter Days, Advents, and Christmas Eves, baptisms, weddings, and funerals – over five decades, how many times were you in the church and sacristy, quietly serving in God’s house, preparing the Lord’s Table, serving God’s people! How many prayers did you pray?! In how many ways was your devoted service an act of prayer?

"As a child of this beloved parish, I was blessed by your faithfulness without even knowing it. As Bishop of West Texas, I am both humbled and lifted up by your graceful example of loving service. Altar Guild members typically prefer working behind the scenes, serving quietly so that our worship is deepened and beautified; but it is good to celebrate and give thanks that God gives the Church people like you – a living reminder that the Son of man came not be served, but to serve. Your love for our Lord and for the people of Church of the Advent shines forth in you and in your service. Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” 

“I fell on my knees and cried a prayer of thanksgiving for giving me these 50 years of service," said Mary Anita, referring to when she returned home from church that Sunday. "I’ve never felt so honored, and by my bishop, my priest, my church, and so many others who came up to me afterward. I was overwhelmed with emotion. I still have the letter from Father Rufus Stewart, inviting me into the Altar Guild in 1968, and I come across it now and again. I’m going to frame Bishop Reed’s letter and Father Stewart’s side by side.

“When I was a little girl, I could see our church from my house, and the Rev. Moreland’s son, Daniel, was my playmate, since the Rectory was still at the church," said Mary Anita. "My mother went to the book store and bought children’s versions of the Old Testament and New Testament with pictures, and she read the stories to my sister and me from beginning to end and then started all over again. We loved the stories, especially the one about Moses leading his people out of bondage and his brother Aaron, since he was a Levite, ultimately becoming the head of the priests. The Holy of Holies always fascinated me, because only Aaron and the priests could enter the Sanctuary and Tabernacle. When I was in the Junior Choir and sitting in the chancel area, I thought of our altar area as the Holy of Holies. Only the priest, the Eucharistic Minister, and the Acolyte could enter our Sanctuary, and, at eight years old, I decided I wanted to be one of those who had the honor of crossing over on the other side of that altar railing. To be able to work on the altar table itself and set up for Holy Communion --  it’s what I wanted to do all my life; I knew that’s where I belonged."

Mary Anita continues to serve regularly in the Altar Guild at Sunday’s early service and funerals, sings in the Senior Choir during Sunday’s late service, is a member of the Daughters of the King, and volunteers twice a week in the church office.

Submitted by Vicky Connor.