Thursday, November 14, 2013

Where do you come from?

I come from Upper Sandusky, small town Ohio at its finest. I still remember the birthdays of my elementary classmates. I can still sing the songs that Mrs. Minehart taught us in the John Stewart UMC junior choir. I remember the names of each of my pastors, and I remember the laughs of each of their wives. 

I come from Ohio Northern University, when the chaplain had a granddaughter named Anna. I learned from some of the best professors I know, some of whom gave me A's. I stayed up late giggling with my Kappa Phi sisters, eating Waffle House with the brothers of Sigma Theta (never mind the ones I dated). Under the chapel bells I found my second home, from late night prayers to Unlimited Sharing retreats. I made friends who are my dearest friends to date. 

I come from the Methodist Theological School in Ohio, where I met people both people I dislike and people I enjoy, all of whom will make great pastors, partners, counselors, and dedicated lay servants. Again, I learned from some of the best educators, some of whom gave me A's. 

I come from the Darby Plains Larger Parish, my first congregations. They listened to some really awful sermons, but saw my honest tears as I cried with them in joyful baptisms and sorrowful losses. I flubbed charge conference paperwork, and moved slowly through my process towards Ordination. They made delicious cake to celebrate my seminary graduation, and they graciously waved as I drove away for my next appointment. 

I come from North Broadway UMC. They, too, listened to some really awful sermons, but they loved me even when I broke Wesley's arm. Their pastor taught me more than a I could have ever learned on my own. They prayed me through my Ordination interviews, and allowed their own CB to carry my banner. I can't wait until I see his banner. 

I come from King Avenue UMC where my shoes and my diction never go unappreciated. I don't simply pray for this incredible church, I pray with it. The people at KA are so devoted to their faith and community. They smile when I still get giddy over wearing stoles. Does it ever get old? I already dread the day I get reappointed. 

What I know is that from all the places I come, I don't journey alone. Thank God for the path, both what is behind me and what is before me. 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

A Hummingbird's Call

Nestled in the village of Upper Sandusky is a one room church. Unless you knew this church existed, you might miss it amid the forest of grave stones that surround it. This small church, known as the "Old Mission Church." The church was founded by John Stewart in 1816 as a mission to the Wyandot Indians. It was soon recognized as the first official mission of the Methodist Episcopal Church in America. This church holds a great history for many, and I am no exception. 
The Old Mission Church and Cemetery. I helped lay that stone path when I was just a few years old. 

Though the building functions mostly as a historical site, during the summers, churches from the community come together to worship once weekly, early Sunday morning. In my childhood, I looked forward to getting up early and making the drive with my father to Old Mission. We parked at the edge of the cemetery and walked up the stone path that my family helped lay. My father and I always arrived early, often beating Jean, the keeper of the building, to the door. We would spend a few moments sitting on the benches outside the building, enjoying the morning sunrise as the mist rose over the grave stones. 

Sorry, pictures of pictures are never great quality, but this is a photo of me and Eagle Bear. I'm holding a doll that P-M made for me. 

The Sunday I most looked forward to each summer was the Sunday closest to the 4th of July. It was on that Sunday that my dear "grandpa" was invited to speak.

Eagle-Bear is a proud Wyandot Indian and a United Methodist lay speaker in the East Ohio Conference.

In both of our younger years, I would wait patiently next to my father to watch "Black-Horse" (his motorcycle) crest the hill and drive the winding path to the church. I knew we would catch up, asking how his wife, Precious-Moments, was. He would then turn his attention to me. To meet my youth, he always had a small gift. A peacock feather, a small raccoon pin, a small stitched doll handmade by P-M, and other trinkets are still reminders of those days. The most lasting gift came, however, after we walked into Old Mission.

Eagle-Bear always put me to work. Whether handing out bulletins, passing out hymnals, or passing the plate, I knew that I was important to Eagle-Bear in the work of bringing the Gospel. I never felt patronized for being a child or for being a girl, but instead felt a respected member of the community of faith.

When it came time to choose my confirmation sponsor in the fall of 1997, I knew no other choice than Eagle-Bear. He was not only a grandfather to me (having not had much relationship with my biological grandfathers), but also a faith giant. I recalled the passion with which he would sign the Lord's Prayer. I remember how he would preach himself exhausted. I remember how he met each hug and handshake with grace and peace. He represented his people and his God. He radiated love.

On the day of my confirmation, Eagle-Bear gave me the greatest gift. He presented me with a Wyandot name. "Little Hummingbird."  Hummingbirds are creatures of color and energy, agility and grace, bearing witness to their creator. Though the name seemed "Little," it felt like a lot to live into. 

The Hummingbird necklace that I often wear. 

From then on Eagle-Bears visits did not contain physical gifts, but contained messages and encouragements. Even throughout college I valued the few words that Eagle-Bear and I exchanged. Though at times his health wavered, his spirit and passion never did.  Though there are many mentors I can thank for nurturing my call into ministry, Eagle-Bear was the first. I remember the joy on his face as I told him one July morning that I was entering the process toward ordained ministry. He clasped my face in his hands and said, "You're a beautiful woman of God. You always have been. This is what you're meant for."

Yes, friend, this is what I was meant for. I will be ordained as an Elder in Full Connection in the West Ohio Annual Conference on June 11, 2013. As I reflect on the many people who nurtured my call, Eagle-Bear stands out. Thanks, Grandpa, for seeing something in me before I saw it in myself. 

Eagle Bear, 2006


This blog post is part of the Exploration 2013 synchblog calling ordained and commissioned clergy to talk about “who called you on your journey of ministry?” Join the synchblog (even after today!) here.
Exploration is a three-day event for young adults age 18-26 to hear, discern, and respond to God’s call to ordained ministry and to explore their gifts for service as a deacon or elder in The United Methodist Church. If you have sensed God might be calling you to ordained ministry, wondered what ministry in The United Methodist Church is all about, would like help sifting through issues involved in an ordained vocation, or want to learn more about The United Methodist seminaries and theological schools, this gathering is for you. Sign up today.