We All Called her "Ma"

by Arnold R. Bolin

We all called her "Ma." When you have given birth to eighteen children, motherhood becomes a way of life.

Marie Rodgers was born in rural Mississippi and lived in the South for her first five decades. In 1965, she and some of her family came North in search of a better life. That was when she found Community Covenant Church in Minneapolis, or, when Community Covenant Church found Ma.

An African-American, Marie did not have an easy life. At the age of thirteen, she married Lee Rodgers, and they lived and worked as sharecroppers in Mississippi, Arkansas, and Missouri. Over the course of their married life, Marie gave birth to eighteen children, all single births, several of whom died in childbirth or early infancy. Lee died in 1978.

Her dream of a better life up North led her to a spiritual home at Community Covenant Church, which was in its organizing stage. She was a charter member of the congregation, which surrounded her with love. Ma served the church as custodian for fifteen years, and was a devoted and effective volunteer assistant for many years in the church's Grant Community Nursery School. Marie's dream was clouded, however, by family members unable to cope with the pressures of urban life, causing her untold grief. What I believe makes Ma Rodgers unique in the Covenant is that, at her death in January at the age of 83, she was survived by ten children, 61 grandchildren, 137 great grandchildren, and 33 great, great grandchildren!

Marie was an insightful and perceptive person. She asked good questions and gave good answers. She once asked Jim Sundholm, pastor at Community Covenant Church from 1972-96, what he thought God is like. Jim said that he gave her "a pastor-type answer." Then Ma thoughtfully said, "Well, I think God is like a great big tree stump in the woods. You can sit there and rest, and you can say whatever you think."

Her life revolved around home and church. Ma's faith in God was deep and vital. In the midst of her many trials with wayward family members, she once told me, "Pastor, when you've been through what I been through, you gotta believe in God!" Ma is home now. Her work is done. Her trials are over. All of us who knew her are the richer. We celebrate Ma Rodgers, one of a kind in our Covenant family.