I must again extend many thanks for everyone who joined in near and far for last Saturday evening’s festivities. It was wonderful to celebrate this milestone with the people who walk and work with me day by day and week by week in ministry.
Ordination has also been a time to reflect on the longer road I’ve walked, and those who have walked it with me. Last Sunday, several of you asked about the rainbow stole I was wearing (thanks for the photo, Julianne!), and I was more than happy to share the story. Here’s a longer version:
From 2009-2011, I worked in Washington, DC, at the Methodist Federation for Social Action. The executive director and my supervisor, Rev. Kathryn Johnson, was a clergy person from the New England Conference. Kathryn, at that point, had led the organization through 3 United Methodist general conferences and was known for her astute polity analysis as well as her unflinching calls for justice and inclusion. I was sent to MFSA as a part of my years as a mission intern, a title Kathryn had also held in her young adulthood while advocating for peace and justice in the Philippines.
Despite my novice status in the worlds of activism, denominational organizing, and even office work, Kathryn (and lead organizer, Amy) showed me the ropes and let me sail. Kathryn went on to serve at another non-profit in DC, and not long after, I headed to Boston for seminary. Yet our paths continued to cross. When I stayed on in Boston, she wound up taking a nearby church appointment, which happened just when I needed some extra support. My appointment to Underhill came just after her daughter finished a degree at Johnson State. And every year at Conference, we’ve enjoyed the opportunity to reconnect over meals, including at the BU lunch, both of us being alumnae.
Given all of these repeated crossings and parallels, it comes as neither surprise nor coincidence that both her retirement and my ordination would occur in the same Annual Conference year. Though she couldn’t stay through to the ceremony, ahead of time she gave me a most wonderful gift: my choice from a number of beautiful stoles she’d collected over the years. Given our work at MFSA, I let her choose between the inclusive rainbow and a “Let Justice Roll” stole inspired by the prophet Amos. I think we can agree, she made a most excellent choice: a rainbow of promise for all that is to come.
This coming Sunday, scripture mirrors life, as Elijah passes the mantle on to Elisha. Similar to what Kathryn did in offering me my choice of stoles, Elijah turns to Elisha and asks him what he wants from him before he departs. But the junior prophet was a bit bolder in his request: “Let me have twice your spirit.”
We may find ourselves taken aback by his audacity, accustomed to expressions more like, “oh, if I could do this job half as well as you, I’d count myself more than blessed.” But Elisha’s demand may not be as self-aggrandizing as it is honest: “I’m going to need twice what you had to make it through.”
As we wrap up our program year and head deeper into the study of the prophets, we find ourselves at a perfect juncture to give thanks for the mentors, guides and counselors we’ve had in our lives. On Sunday, we’ll leave some extra time during joys and concerns so that we can share brief stories of the ones who have passed the mantle to us, and whose spirits we’d like more of for the next leg of the journey.
If you have a physical memento from someone you’d like to remember, please bring it along on Sunday for a bit of show and tell. But a name and a few lines of story are just fine, too. Online worshippers can do the same using Padlet.
I look forward to seeing and hearing your stories,