The United Methodist Church has been in the news quite a bit during the last few weeks. On January 3, 2020, the Council of Bishops issued a press release sharing a Protocol for Reconciliation and Grace through Separation. Major news stations carried the story. Social media was filled with thoughts and responses. As our denomination focuses on decisions to be made at General Conference in May, our churches have set their attention firmly on the call of God to be in ministry with the least of these. What follows is a powerfully touching story about the value of one life and the congregation that surrounded him.
From Rev. Fred Steinberg, Lead Pastor at Gold Canyon United Methodist Church –
On Saturday, December 7, Gold Canyon held a Memorial Service for Donald Brigham. For the last ten years Donald spent many hours sitting on the bench in front of the medical center on Kings Ranch Road. At night he would sleep in various locations around Gold Canyon. For a time he slept behind our church. Most recently he was sleeping at the Foothills Baptist Church.
Since Donald’s homeless situation was well-known in Gold Canyon, many people sought to help him through gifts and assistance. Some would buy him something to drink and sit with him on his bench. When Donald ended up in the hospital, quite a few people from Gold Canyon drove to Scottsdale to visit him. When he died almost 300 people attended his Memorial Service at Gold Canyon United Methodist Church. That’s how much he was loved by our community and church
Erica Meeks, with the help of others, was able to find Donald’s family. It turned out they had not seen him in 10 years even though they were living in Phoenix. We were pleased that Donald’s ex-wife and daughter were able to attend his service. We also found out the Donald has three children and three grandchildren.
During the Memorial Service about 30 people expressed just how much Donald meant to them. They shared about how Donald cared about others. One church member shared how she fell in front of Donald’s bench and he quickly got up, walked over and helped her get back to her feet.
Someone stated that Donald never took more than he needed. Another person recalled offering Donald a bunch of water bottles and Donald said, “I only need one.” If he received more than what he needed, he would give it to somebody else. He had a giving nature.
Tressa sang two songs at his Memorial service. It was the right amount to sing because previously Tressa had brought Donald into her hair salon and invited him to sit down and while she sang some songs to him. Tressa played her baby grand and sang two songs but when she was getting ready to sing a third song he said, “I think I’ve had enough.” Donald promptly got up and left. Two songs in his service was the right amount.
I think all of us left the service feeling blessed for knowing Donald. During the service we gave thanks that now his mental illness was gone, and he was made whole. And that’s, good news!
As your District Superintendent I invite you to send me your stories of love in action. They are evidence of the ways we are living into the Vision of our Annual Conference.
Our Vision –
Touching lives, transforming hearts – that’s who we are –