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Ms. Donna Herbener

Gifted Oil Painter of Seasonal Landscapes
First United Lutheran Church, Dallas, TX

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I have never gone to a church potluck dinner that I didn’t enjoy, and I have never come away from a potluck dinner hungry even if I contributed nothing to it.

Many of you know that when my husband Mark was bishop, I would travel with him on most weekends, partly because I enjoyed being with him but mostly because I wanted to be a part of this new church body, the NT-NL, and meet the people and the churches that make it what it is – to see the body of Christ at work on a larger scale than my own small congregation.

Donna and Mark in their earlier years

Sunday mornings always followed a similar pattern, small or large congregation, country or city church made little difference. We would arrive early, be greeted by the pastor who would then whisk Mark away to his study to go over the service, and I would be left to my own devises in the narthex. As surely as there is coffee after church there is a bulletin board in the narthex. So even before church started, I was becoming acquainted with you. Almost always there would be some sort of reception after church and a chance to meet the members. Very often, particularly in small towns and country churches, we would be treated to a potluck dinner; long tables heavy with platters of sliced ham, deer sausage, fried chicken, deviled eggs, casseroles of every kind, scalloped potatoes, every vegetable and salad imaginable and then there would be the dessert table. So much that no one person could sample every dish no matter how tempting or how small a portion you would take. Everyone would eat. It didn’t matter if you brought a dish or you had no dish to bring, you ate.

So why am I writing about potluck dinners and church bulletin boards when I was asked to tell you about me, my talent and my inspiration.

The MEF was founded when her husband, The Rev. Mark Herbener, was the first Bishop of the NT-NL. Her submission is dedicated to his memory.

A few years ago, Mt. Olive in Dallas was on the receiving end of a gift from our Mission Endowment Fund. Mt. Olive is the small congregation that nourished me for twenty-six years while Mark was pastor there and is instrumental in shaping me into the person that I am today. Its doors have been open to all for 73 years, but not all who come through those doors come to sit in a pew. Always a little short of funding but finding resources such as MEF enables them to continue, whatever the need, a ministry to those who are outside their doors with empty dishes. This is the story of just one church.

We have an endless supply of “Potluck” talent in our churches. Talents as varied as the dishes laid out on those long tables on a Sunday afternoon. I am not a Rembrandt or a Da Vinci nor will we ever see my paintings hanging in museums or important galleries. What I try to capture on canvas is what I see in the beauty of nature’s seasonal cycles, the reflections and movement in water and sometimes, maybe even just a clay pot. And that is the talent that I have to offer. My part of the “Potluck” to put on the table

In one way or another, we all come at some time with an empty dish. It is my hope that through our Potluck of talents and gifts to the Mission Endowment Fund, empty dishes will be filled, and the work of the church will most certainly go on.