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Florida woman earns 65 years of perfect Sunday school attendance

Florida woman earns 65 years of perfect Sunday school attendance

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Florida woman earns 65 years of perfect Sunday school attendance

Oct. 3, 2006    News media contact: Tita Parham* 
800-282-8011    Orlando {0555}

An e-Review Feature
By Jenna De Marco**

Sarah McCraney, 71, allows precious few events to get in the way of attending Sunday school at First United Methodist Church in Dunedin.

As a result, she recently reached a milestone — 65 years of perfect attendance.

McCraney follows in the footsteps of her late father, Cyrus Thompson Falls, who had 67.5 years of perfect attendance. Her late mother Bonnie also had a perfect attendance record of many years. “Everybody knew what they were going to do (on Sunday),” McCraney said of her upbringing.

McCraney’s steadfast attendance record has been broken only by the births of each of her three children — Bonnie Shell, 52, Mary McCraney, 51, and David McCraney, 42. “I skipped a Sunday for each one of my three children,” she said. “And it wasn’t me but my husband, who insisted that I stay home.”

McCraney, who worked 40 years as a clerk for the United States Postal Service, even juggled a Sunday work schedule. “When I first started to work, I had to work on Sunday,” she said.

In those days, the post office, church and railroad station were all closely located to each other. McCraney managed to arrange her work schedule so she wouldn’t miss Sunday school and the mail would be sorted on time. She retired around 1998.

Her attendance record at work also shows her dedicated attitude, her son David McCraney said. “As a matter of fact, she retired way early because she never called in sick,” he said. “She was able to retire over a year early with that accumulated sick time.”

Last August on Sunday school promotion day the Rev. Joe Teague, pastor of McCraney’s Dunedin church, honored all members with perfect attendance for the previous year, saving McCraney for last.

“Pastor Joe stood up and told a story about how her father was the trailblazer (as far as) this was concerned, and she’s creeping up on him,” David McCraney said. “He gave a great testimony for her, and she’s very humble. It’s (about) more than her being recognized. It’s also an inspiration to others.”

Teague believes McCraney’s record holds significance — it encourages others and strengthens Sunday school, among other reasons. “I wanted people to see the importance that we need to make a commitment,” Teague said.

McCraney’s perfect record occurred primarily in two churches — First United Methodist Church in Dunedin and Central United Methodist Church in Kings Mountain, N.C. Her family attended Central United Methodist Church during the summers throughout much of her childhood and First United Methodist Church the rest of the year.

“My father worked in the citrus groves in the winter time and we spent our summers in North Carolina raising cotton,” she said.

The Sunday school class McCraney currently attends is called “Thee Mariners” and has been together in one form or another since the 1960s.

“Part of the reason she goes all the time is because she’s in one of the best Sunday schools that you can imagine,” David McCraney said.

The cohesiveness of the group kept Sarah McCraney going when she faced two major challenges in her life — the death of her husband Alvin in 2000 and her bout with breast cancer, which began in July 2005. “I’ve had so many prayers from North Carolina and from here,” she said.

The breast cancer spread to her lymph nodes, so after a partial mastectomy and removal of 27 lymph nodes, McCraney endured a heavy course of chemotherapy and radiation. The treatments left her nauseated, tired and thin.

In spite of her weakened physical condition, McCraney pressed on in her Sunday school faithfulness. “When I had cancer (my family) took turns taking me to Sunday school because sometimes I could hardly walk,” she said.

Other members of her Sunday school class respect her attendance record so much they were willing to help ensure she could attend through her cancer treatments, according to class leader Lyn Billitteri. “ … When she was very, very ill we made it clear that if she couldn’t come to class, the class would come to her in order to protect her (record),” Billitteri said.

After losing nearly 70 pounds and all of her hair McCraney said she is now beginning to make a comeback physically. She’s been given a clean bill of health as far as the breast cancer goes, although there is some question about whether the cancer has spread to her bones, she said. And she’s happy to be well enough to work in her yard and maintain a good quality of life.

“My right arm I can’t raise above my head, but I can pull weeds,” she said.

McCraney feels blessed to be able to spend time with her children and their spouses and her grandchildren. Her son David and his family live in a house on the same eight acres on which her house is located. She greets his three children each afternoon when school is out. “I help them with their homework and make them read to me,” McCraney said.

And as for her commitment to Sunday school, McCraney feels strong enough to continue participating, as long as her health holds up.

“As long as I can sit up, I’ll go to Sunday school,” she said.


This article relates to Christian Education and Discipleship.

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**De Marco is a freelance writer based in Viera, Fla.