Share your recipes – and your values

April 14, 2023 by Olanda Carr

Every major holiday, I bake a sweet potato casserole. This past Easter was no different. It has become a family tradition, as my casserole follows a recipe I inherited from my mother. I feel my version has been validated, as I began assuming this responsibility years before my mother’s passing. And I consider it an honor to continue the tradition today. As I prepare the dish, I often recall times we made this casserole together. I recall the laughter and technique. My late mother never tasted her dishes prior to placing them in the oven. I, however, have not developed that skill just yet. I have to do a simple ‘taste test’, just to make sure the contents of the mixture have blended properly. Throughout the process, from countertop to oven, I feel my mother with me – a legacy of treasured memories that will always remain.

I suppose my mother’s sweet potatoes have been on my mind as I have been doing a lot of legacy conversations lately. Our denomination acknowledges “Legacy Sunday” on the first Sunday of May each year, so the weeks preceding this commemoration are frequently filled with presentations to committees and congregations about the importance of legacy planning. During these presentations, I often challenge those gathered to develop their legacy plan by asking a couple of questions, and as they prepare, to be careful to include elements of faith into the plan. After all, legacy planning is not strictly a financial conversation. Rather, legacy planning is rooted with stories and traditions that will pass down from generation to generation. And for disciples of Jesus Christ, our legacies are deeply intertwined with our faith.

One question I ask to start the process of developing (or revising) your legacy plan is the following: Have you spoken of God’s grace and love as the source of your faith? Before this question is answered too hastily, I believe it is a good idea to clarify what it means to speak of God’s grace and love. I am reminded of Parker Palmer’s book, Let Your Life Speak. In this publication, Palmer reminds that speaking involves much more than just our words:

“Verbalizing is not the only way our lives speak . . .they speak though our actions and reactions, our intuitions and instincts, our feelings and bodily states of being, perhaps more profoundly than through our words.”

Parker asserts that the way we live our lives, the decisions we make (the good and the bad) determines are true voice. Adding the perspective of legacy, the wisdom we have imparted upon others, the values we have instilled, and the organizations we have supported influence the voice that will echo well into the future. As we ponder these items, it is perhaps helpful to reflect on the ways your life is speaking today. How might you wish your voice to speak in the future? How is your voice reflecting your faith in God?

After answering the first series of questions, it’s time to continue to the next one: Have you considered your life and family values, including the Church and its mission? As you consider your life and family values, what tools will you use to make sure your voice is heard loud and clear to future generations? The answers to these questions can certainly take multiple forms. One answer could be your prized coin collection, willed to a loved one, friend, or fellow collector. Another answer could be a gift of property left to heirs. And, yes, an answer could also be a sweet potato casserole recipe, intended to be passed down to future generations.

The second part of the aforementioned question, the Church and its mission, should also be a major component to your legacy plan. Is there one congregation that has been significant in your faith journey? Perhaps it has been more than one. How will you remember them in your legacy plan? Are there particular ministries that you have supported through the years that you would like to assist with a legacy gift? It may be helpful to make a list of such ministries. Once the list has been prepared, the Presbyterian Foundation has multiple resources to assist you with identifying the best method to use to frame your legacy gift(s).

As disciples, we have inherited a legacy of faith in Jesus Christ that has been passed down for generations. Determining your role in this continuing legacy is perhaps one of the most important things you will ever do. Thus, it is paramount that you carefully discern the ‘who’ and the ‘what’ that have been important to you throughout your lifetime, carefully noting God’s goodness through it all. And as you speak these responses into the future, be sure to use a loud, bold voice – using words if you have to.

Olanda Carr, Jr. is the Senior Ministry Relations Officer serving the East Region. He works with congregations to create a culture of generosity, offers seminars and workshops, develops gifts and fundraising plans for ministries, and provides coaching to finance, stewardship and endowment committees. Olanda holds a BBA and MBA from Montreat College (North Carolina) and is an elder and assistant treasurer of First United Presbyterian Church. He resides in Charlotte with his wife, Monica.