Church member honored for 50 years of service

The church choir at Trinity Lutheran Church on Sunday started singing and the children were brought out.

Martha Cooley was confused. She did not know she was about to be honored for her 50 years of service to her lifelong church, Trinity Lutheran Church in Stephens City. The church was able to keep the ceremony a secret, leaving Cooley unsure about what was happening before she was stunned and started to cry, the Rev. Cameron Geyser said.

“It was a shock. It (her work) is just something I do, I did,” Cooley said.

She still does. Cooley plans to continue helping out in whatever ways she can, such as serving meals in the church’s kitchen. She plans to continue making quilts for the church.

“I was brought up to serve, to ask ‘how can I serve God’,” Cooley said. “The church was important to my life.”

Cooley has been teaching Sunday school at the church for five decades to mostly young children but at times teenagers as well. Cooley, who is 75, decided a couple years ago it was time to step down to make way for those who are younger and could relate more to the kids.

“I enjoyed it while I was doing it but it comes to a time where others should come in,” Cooley said.

In fact, the church has found her replacements.

“We have managed to spread it out to three women. It has taken three people to take her place,” Geyser said.

The church will rotate the Sunday school class every week to one of the new volunteers.

“Its tough for most to be there every Sunday,” Geyser said.

Cooley and her mother, who is 97, are lifelong members of the church.

“Martha is perhaps the most faithful Christian woman I have ever meet,” Geyser said, noting that she is the church’s institutional memory and that if she doesn’t remember it, it did not happen.

He added that Cooley is also the church’s best recruiter.

She greets new visitors to the church and shows them around. Geyser estimates eight out of every 10 new visitors Cooley greets become church members.

A plaque will be hung on the Sunday school classroom where Cooley taught.

“This is the first time, I can’t think of anything else named after someone,” Geyser said. “To teach Sunday school for 50 years. Do you know how many pictures of Jesus were colored?”

Cooley helps people in the community but never boasts. It is usually only months later that others find out about her kind works, he said.

“She leaves a little bit of her heart with everything she does,” Geyser said.

During her 50 years, hundreds of kids have come through her Sunday School class.

Her goal was that they would understand those lessons to grow in their faith and as they got older they would connect more to the stories she taught.

“I remember all of them. I remember their faces,” Cooley said. “I hope I had an impact on them.”