By Barbara E. Goodman
One of the saints of the United Methodist Church that I remember is Miss Sue Swindell of Gum Neck Methodist Church in Gum Neck, North Carolina. Miss Sue was a widow who was the custodian, greeter, usher, and hospitality committee of her church. I knew her in the late 1950s when my father served a 4-point charge based in Columbia, N.C ., which included the Gum Neck church. I was 6 years old at the time. Miss Sue always was the first one to get to church. She organized the entire sanctuary, prepared the bulletins to be distributed, put up the hymns, and then was available to welcome everyone and be sure that they had a bulletin and a hymnal (and a cardboard fan with a wooden handle advertising a funeral home in the summer) as they came to church.
Once a month, the pastor’s family would go for services at Gum Neck and spend the day at the church. Usually Miss Sue would invite us to her house for dinner on that Sunday. As was the case at that time in North Carolina, Sunday dinner with the preacher’s family was always fried chicken. I remember Miss Sue’s house because it was small, smelled like gas from either the cooking or heating stove, and did not have running water inside. My favorite part of her house was a very large glass jar filled with marbles that she used as a door stop. Miss Sue was always friendly and gave me frequent hugs.
My family kept in touch with her for years after we moved to other appointments in North Carolina and Virginia. In fact when I was a college student at Duke University in Durham, N.C., years later, Miss Sue entered the United Methodist retirement home down the street from my dormitory and I was able to visit her a few times. My memories of Miss Sue Swindell are of the bustling elderly woman who opened her heart to everyone and willingly gave of herself even though her finances were meager. She was surely a saint from our Methodist/United Methodist herstory! Thanks, Miss Sue!
Barbara E. Goodman is a professor of physiology at the Sanford School of Medicine of the University of South Dakota. She is a member of the First United Methodist Church of Vermillion, S.D.