Salem Presbyterian Church
Wednesday, September 20, 2017
Connecting, Supporting, Exploring Faith Together

Member Norma Eisert

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Photo courtesy of Vickie Saewert.

“Ask Norma.” For years, whether it’s how to adjust the heat or what is the process for transferring church memberships, Salem Presbyterians have become accustomed to finding Norma Eisert to answer questions about the church. After 16 years as church secretary through three ministers, Norma learned about church history, met and communicated with Presbytery officials, set up meeting times, filed important papers, took messages and even picked up how the repairmen did their work.

A true Hoosier, Norma was born in Harrison County where her mother Sylvia Evans Bailey raised Norma and her brother as Presbyterians. Growing up, Norma lived with her mother and brother at her grandparents’ home and attended Riverside Presbyterian Church near Elizabeth, Indiana. Norma has a great memory of her grandfather. Although he didn’t attend church regularly, every Sunday morning after chores, he would change out of his work boots and clothes into clean overalls and shirt and sit to read his Bible.

In the seventh grade, Norma met Erwin Eisert and years later, after they graduated from high school and married, journeyed with him to Purdue. Eventually the couple came to Salem in 1951, where Erwin became part of the Salem Community Schools system and where they raised their two children, Bruce and Sandra.

Norma and Erwin attended the Salem Presbyterian Church sporadically through their early years in Salem, but eventually, in the 1980’s, Norma became a faithful and regular member of the church.  

Norma remembers many memorable times at Salem Presbyterian Church, but two are especially significant to her. One Sunday morning, after Bill Peterson called Steve Hunt to give the Minute for Mission, Steve asked Norma to come forward because “she knew all about what was going on,” but as she came forward, she thought to herself, “Oh, dear, I have no idea what he means.” Steve began talking about someone being an orphan and needing a home, leaving Norma completely confused. Then, as the church doors opened and in walked Bill Spencer-Pierce, Norma heard a loud “meow” and realized Bill was holding a Siamese kitten. The kitten was her precious Ellie, who has been with Norma for eighteen years. Members of the congregation gave her to Norma, and she has become what Norma calls her church kitty, gentle, loving, sweet--a special companion for Norma.

Another exceptional Sunday was one when the Civil War reenactment group came to service. She had talked to the group leaders and helped plan their visit, but as they came marching down the street, men, women, children, with the rat-a-tat of their drums, she started to feel the real significance of the event. They left their guns at the door and sat in the pews, men in front, women behind. As the major with the group rose to speak to the congregation, Norma thought of how those visitors represented real people who would have sat in the very same pews in Salem Presbyterian, many years before. The sense of history of her church with those people was an emotional memory for Norma—voices from history speaking to her and to our congregation.

Norma’s vision for the church is to have the pews so full that two or even three services are needed. She truly wants people to come from the “east and west and north and south.” Last year, Norma helped implement a once a month prayer vigil at the Church. One of the prayers she prays on those days is that Salem Presbyterian Church will be filled. Prayer Vigil day is an important day for Norma, who feels it is a real need for the church, this facility and the people in it. In some ways, Norma is living a legacy from her great-grandmother, who, according to her family lore, was known for her prayers of healing. Norma believes that all the different people who have been on our list for prayer need somebody to pray for them, whether they are members or not. Norma sees the hand of God moving through prayer. Praying for the nation, the children, for wisdom for our public officials is vital. To her, one person can make the difference because with God the person praying becomes the majority. Norma believes, “Prayer moves the hand of God in ways we don’t even know."

Norma has been active in the community as well as the church. She doesn’t like to slow down even in the face of illness. She serves on Salem boards, being especially interested in the tree board. Although she doesn’t drive for John Jones right now, she has enjoyed driving all the cars, new and old, and smiles at the fact that she knows more about driving a stick shift than some younger drivers. Norma can always be counted as ready to offer her friends a ride to church or any activity.  Norma provides her own “special recipes” for church meals. Who doesn’t love Norma’s crock-pot mashed potatoes?

Norma is especially proud of her work with the Girl Scouts in Salem. Norma remembers fondly her time as a Girl Scout leader for Washington County’s Troop Eleven. She provided leadership from their 4th grade through high school, planning many activities like retreats to McCormick’s Creek. She laughed to recall the jokes and wagers her family had about how many Girl Scout cookies could fit into their house. Ensuring that the girls knew how to swim was one of Norma’s main goals. For two years, Norma took her troop to the Colonial Club in New Albany for swimming lessons. Then, the swimming pool in town opened. All the girls learned to swim, with some of the girls earning life guard and instructor certifications, junior life saving and senior life saving badges. One summer they swam 30 days. Norma was determined that her scouts would be able to swim, noting that after such efforts on behalf of the scouts she also finally felt she could swim enough to survive. In a recent Facebook post about the girl scouts in Salem, Ramona Collins recalled, “Those are the best times of my youth. Praise be to Norma, my 2nd Mom.” It was a wonderful time of growth, not only for the girls of Troop Eleven, but for Norma, too.

Norma’s love for Salem Presbyterian Church shows through her commitment and enthusiasm for the church’s activities and for its people. “Ask Norma” is a tribute to her dedication, her spirit and her wonderful presence as part of our church.  Our church family takes comfort and pleasure in knowing that Norma has the answers about the history, life, operations, and spirit of the church and that Norma provides such special and gentle guidance to our faith and our congregation.

 

- Norma was interviewed by church member Carolyn Beck - January 2014