What does it look like for the Church to look after widows in their distress? Anna Graham recently sat down with us to share her story of God’s faithfulness and how the Church can come alongside widows and their families.
On January 11, 1987, Pastor Tom Graham preached his final sermon at Aisquith Presbyterian Church in Baltimore. He didn’t know it would be his last time in the pulpit there. The congregation didn’t know it. His wife and two sons didn’t know it. Only God knew.
After that January worship service, Tom’s wife Anna insisted he see a doctor about his severe back pain. She had grown concerned after seeing her husband unable to sleep and losing energy. Tom was diagnosed a few weeks later with cancer after undergoing surgery. He was then hospitalized for weeks before passing away at home on April 4. Tom Graham was 51 and in the prime of his ministry when the Lord called him into his presence. He left behind Anna and two sons.
Tom loved Christ’s church and committed his life to serving it alongside Anna. He was raised as a missionary kid in Sudan and Ethiopia before moving to the United States to attend school. After graduating from Wheaton, he attended Princeton Theological Seminary. He married Anna and eventually accepted a call to serve a United Presbyterian congregation in New Jersey before finally settling in Baltimore where he ministered for eighteen years prior to his passing. During Tom’s ministry at Aisquith, the church grew significantly under his leadership and decided to join with the Presbyterian Church in America.
It has been almost thirty-four years since Tom Graham died, but Tom’s widow Anna Graham still loves the church and marvels at how God cared for her through the church. As she looks back, she traces God’s hand of providence in Tom’s ministry and even his death. She believes Tom’s childhood in Africa prepared him for the doctrinal and legal battles he faced in leaving the United Presbyterian Church.
She grows teary as she recalls how God provided following her husband’s sudden passing:
- Business leaders in the church made sure every medical bill was paid.
- Church members contributed money to fly their son home from college to be with his father during his final weeks of life.
- The elders continued to provide her with Tom’s salary for six months following his death.
- The officers of the church permitted her to live in the church manse for an entire year.
- Her two sons graduated college without debt thanks to the generosity of church members, friends, and relatives.
- A fellow pastors’ widow, Ann Llewellyn, reached out to her on behalf of Ministerial Relief.
Without the gracious support of the church, Anna doesn’t know how she would have made it. “Those people were God’s grace to me,” as she puts it. She continues to worship at Aisquith to this day where she has volunteered with the children’s church ministry for decades.
In the years following Tom’s death, Anna found work but also found expenses difficult to manage. She reconnected with another pastor’s wife who had also recently lost her husband. It was through her friend Anna discovered RBI and the Ministerial Relief Fund. They sat down with Anna to explore her circumstances and make sure her needs were being met.
At least once per month, a pastor’s wife in the PCA becomes a widow. RBI exists to make sure that pastors and ministry workers are cared for during every season of ministry. Thanks to the generosity of individuals and churches to the Ministerial Relief Fund, RBI is able to walk alongside widows like Anna and provide financial assistance and support.
What counsel does Anna Graham have for churches? “Make sure you have a plan for how your pastor’s wife is going to be cared for in the eventuality of his death.” She knows her story is an exception. Many widows don’t get the support from their congregation she received. Her continued presence at Aisquith remains a testimony to the church’s love and support.
Learn how Ministerial Relief provides financial assistance to ministry staff and their families. Join with churches and individuals around the country and make a gift to Ministerial Relief so widows like Anna Graham continue to receive the support they need.
Geneva Benefits Group serves those who serve others, providing practical support for the financial, physical, and mental wellbeing of people who work in full-time ministry.