Saturday, before the funeral for my father, a few of us in my immediate and extended family gathered at the Traffic Jam and Snug Restaurant in Detroit for a quick bite to eat. Before I get started with most things that requires time, I like to take a moment and get something to eat. The exception is when I exercise. I try to drink a little water, but basically that is it.
It is interesting that we ended up at the Traffic Jam. Often on Wednesdays after our noon day worship service, my dad and I would go to the Traffic Jam and get lunch. When I began my ministry in 1976 at the church as an assistant to my father, he and I would eat lunch two or three times a week. We would alternate between Verne’s, Alvin’s Finer Delicatessen and the Traffic Jam and Snug. My father was on the Detroit City Council and was consumed in the business of the city almost all day long. Even though I was only 24 years of age, he gradually but very quickly put me in charge of the day to day operation of the church. The church staff then, as now was lean with a full time accountant, Joanella Williams and a secretary, Beverly Custard Beckem. I did administrative work at the church in the mornings and in the afternoons I visited the sick and shut – in members. Denise was finishing law school in Ann Arbor at the University of Michigan, so I had a lot of time in the afternoons and early evenings to visit the sick. When my dad and I would meet the agenda was simple, straightforward and direct: “How are things going at the church, what are you doing and what are your plans?” I would spend the next several moments blabbing about my comings and goings. My dad would then give me the assignments he wanted me to take care of. We did this from 1976-1984. One Thursday night in 1984 during a deacon meeting my dad abruptly stated, “I think I have been here too long – I resign.” It was so quick and without warning I was totally caught off guard. As a matter of face, we all were caught off guard. The rest is history. I was named the interim minister as a national search for a pastor began.
I learned a lot from my father about church administration. His style was to set the tone, delegate the tasks, thing swing back monitor how staff people were following through on their duties. Forty years later, I am doing the same thing. The staff members have changed, the duties are the same, and I often take them to lunch at the Traffic Jam – the same place I began meeting with my dad to check in on how the church was doing. Often my staff jokes about me taking them to lunch, but I think they understand that although the agenda is casual, the focus is razor sharp and serious: “What are you doing with what I have asked you to do? And What can I do to help you do your job?”
So, Saturday when we decided to stop by the Traffic Jam and Snug before the funeral, it put me right at ease. We only had little more than an hour, but I knew if we did not eat before the funeral it would not be until five o’clock until we would eat again.
Those who gathered were my immediate family: Steve, Denise, Noah, Nathan and Sharla, Maleah, mother in law- Nancy Page, but also Andrew and Walter Young, Rev. Dwight Andrews, my cousin, Dolly, and a fellow named Eric who is an assistant to Andrew. Andrew, Walt and Dwight are not my blood relatives, but they are like family. Andrew and Walt were among the first male role models in my life. As an infant in New Orleans, they used to rough-house with me. In retrospect, I was born before they were married and early in Andrew’s marriage to his first wife Jean. I think the three of them, Andrew, Walt and Jean, may have looked at me as a test case of infancy. – to give them a glimpse into early childhood and what their lives would be like in just a few years.
Saturday, I was pleased to be with family before the funeral, eating the “blazing red fish sandwich”, “Basil and Chicken Egg Rolls”, I had the “Tex-Mex Lentil burger on top of a side salad and an Ice-T.” I really wanted Andrew and Walt to meet Nathan’s wife, Sharla and their daughter, Maleah. We had a hilarious time watching Steve and Andrew trade “Fat jokes” and sharing funny experiences over the years.
We got through the funeral and I’m so glad we stopped to eat first. As we ate, I started thinking about an incident in the life of Jesus where he was preaching hard in his home church and people tried to calm him down by saying your mother and family are outside. The response of Jesus to the people let them know that he had an expanded concept of family. In like manner, now that my father and mother are gone on to glory, my sense of family is growing. Andrew, Walt and Dwight are like family. As I think about them I am reminded that my family is much more than my biological mother, father, sister and brothers. Family is who loves you and who you love. Thank God for family.
Matthew 12: 47 Someone told him, “Look, your mother and your brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.” 48 But to the one who had told him this, Jesus replied, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 49 And pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” 
Written by Rev. Dr. Nicholas Hood III
Photo of the family by a waiter at the Traffic Jam and Snug
Other photos of the family by Nicholas Hood III
Additional Prayers Photos and Meditations from Rev. Dr. Nicholas Hood III at https://nicholashoodiiiministries.wordpress.com/
 The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Mt 12:47–50). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.