I'm thinking about gratitude this week. Been reviewing all the people who've inspired, been kind, encouraged and challenged me. I may write them thank-you notes and tell them although when I've decided to do this before, I wrote notes but couldn't seem to put the envelopes in the mail. Don't know why except maybe I hesitated trying to write down how much these people mean to me.
Tonight, or excuse me, this morning, I'm thinking about the Rev. Dr. Carter Heyward who wouldn't know me if I wore a flip chart of our interconnectedness. She came to mind while I was reading Louie Crew's website entries. Louie, an Alabama native, is an Episcopal layman who keeps things stirred up for his Church. He's retired from the faculty at Rutgers but has a schedule (included on his site) which exhausts me just to read the number of entries.
I grew up in Carter's neighborhood. She's a few years ahead of me but she came from the same pasture. She left the Carolinas to study and become one of the famous '74 Episcopal Church ordinands. I was ordained as a Presbyterian pastor four years later.
Our paths are divergent in that she is outspoken, an author, seminary faculty and has shown courage all of her life. My route is more timid, softer spoken and unknown to the world. She is a advocate for lesbi-gay issues, which I follow because the justice issues involved are clear to me. My life follows the tradition of marriage and family, women's clubs and car-pools.
In my growing up home, in the den, was an end table filled with detritus. Pencils with broken lead, rubber bands, grocery coupons, dead batteries and lots of bits of newspaper. My mother tore out coupons, society columns, Billy Graham's column and department store advertisements. Among the paper bits was an article about a party given for Carter Heyward around the time of her society debut. I read that article over and over when I was home from seminary. Recalling the adage that, "the teacher appears when the student is ready", there was proof in a drawer of miscellany that someone (me) from my neighborhood could do the parent-expected thing (debut) and still reach out to honor God's call to ministry (whew!). I suppose the Carter clipping was several years old when I found it.
I heard my mother's friends fussing about the ordination-of-women-thingie these wild women priests had done. I read about Carter's book, A Priest Forever, and read it. Even if she and I were different in tone and bravery she was a called women, I was a called women.
She is a wedge of encouragement from years ago. I treasure her and this memory for all it did for me, quietly and without anyone else noticing, to give me a bridge to my own obedience to God's call.