I Am United Methodist: Betty Jane Hoback Ludlam
When Betty Jane Hoback Ludlam's husband, Leslie (Les), experienced a call to ordained ministry after being in the business world for 31 years, did they panic?
"No," she quickly responded. "It felt natural. We love working with people and sharing our faith journey." Now a member of St. Luke's United Methodist Church in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, Ludlam grew up in the rural western part of the state. Her family worked for ranchers and farmers and was part of a network of people who attended the Evangelical United Brethren Church and later, the Methodist Church. "My mother was the driving influence in our Christian upbringing," Ludlam recalled. "We were ‘church people,' even if it meant having church at her bedside when she was ill or at home when the car wouldn't start and we couldn't get to town."
As a girl, Ludlam found her niche in United Methodist Women's predecessors as she accompanied her mom to meetings. After she and Les married, they moved frequently for his work. Locating a church was always high on their list. Wherever they moved, she sought out United Methodist Women. "This was the group where I found support and help in a new community."
Today, Ludlam is involved in Stephen Ministries at St. Luke's, and she serves on district and Rocky Mountain Conference UMW Leadership teams. In the community, she volunteers at her grandchildren's school. Because of her background of work with children, Ludlam took a part-time job at a local toy store.
Living what she believes is central to Ludlam's life. She is proud of her United Methodist heritage and grateful that she and Les instilled in their children the value of being "church people." Ludlam said she loves being a United Methodist, especially what she calls "the open and accepting nature of most United Methodist congregations. ‘Come as you are whoever you are!' That certainly applies to my current congregation," she said. "We have traditionalists, (people from) other faith backgrounds and the previously unconnected. I see us as a very welcoming congregation."
Ludlam is especially excited about her congregation's reach beyond the church's walls that includes youth and adults in mission (hands-on) locally, nationally and internationally. "We have so many outreach programs involving food for others," she said. "I think there are at least 10 food outreach programs at our church. The ‘Feeding of 5,000' annually gathers more than 100,000 pounds of nonperishable food for Denver Urban Ministries food pantry. A Sunday evening group started with worship and to make sack lunches for the homeless." This group has moved on to other outreach but the "Monday Lunch in the Park" program continues under the direction of a church member. A group gathers every Monday morning to make 100 lunches and then drives to the center of Denver to deliver them. The congregation furnishes monthly meals for a teen shelter, and the UMW provides meals to about 25 families annually at Warren Village. St. Luke's Caring Connection prepares meals for members experiencing needs, because even a congregation focused on others needs self-care, Ludlam acknowledged.
"Our congregation is experiencing many health issues, loss of life and relationships and economic hardship with loss of work," she said. "With a very active Stephen Ministries program and Caring Connection, we work hard to meet these needs."
Her husband, who retired in 2004, has multiple sclerosis. "But I am confident that as needs arise we will have overwhelming support from our church."
Her advice for the future? Remember that "hope never changes. Continue to ‘forward think' to promote understanding of diversity and compassionate justice for all."
Barbara Dunlap-Berg is now retired from United Methodist Communications in Nashville, Tennessee. She wrote this article while serving as general church content editor.