My Call to Ministry
I grew up in inner-city Detroit during the 1967 racial riots. I remember the fear of watching National Guard trucks and soldiers go up and down our streets, of obeying curfews and hearing gunshots. I witnessed and experienced at a very young age the violence that comes from hatred and ignorance and prejudice. I felt moved to be a force or reconciliation among the equity of peoples- a witness to the justice of God and the mercy of Christ.
After I graduated from DePauw University, I had the opportunity to do some volunteer work in music at the American Church in Paris, France. I loved to spend time in the beautiful, ornate cathedrals in that city. One afternoon, after spending some time with the Pieta in Notre Dame (with the dying Jesus draped across His Mary’s lap) I stepped outside the church. There I found a Lebanese woman who had fled the ongoing conflict in her country. She had her child draped across her lap and a sign asking for food. I realized that Mary and Jesus were sitting outside the church and they were hungry. I felt deeply moved to be a force of reconciliation within the church- reconciliation between ecclesiastical displays of riches versus the needs of the people- a witness to the justice of God and the mercy of Christ.
During seminary I spent a summer working refugee camps in the Israeli occupied West Bank. For the first time in my life I had to question the justice of God and the mercy of Christ. I remember hoping that God was dead – for certainly a God who was dead was less frightening than a God who didn’t care. One day I asked the people if they were angry that God was so silent. They gently said to me, “God isn’t silent, Valerie, people are.” And I felt deeply moved to be a voice in the political reconciliation among people – a witness to the justice of God and the mercy of Christ.
During the many years I served in ministry and mission positions, I discovered that people should always remember the power of one; the difference we can make in the world when we couple our courage and action with God’s possibilities. I felt deeply moved to be a voice of the Wesleyan understanding that “the world is our parish” and that encourages God’s people that “nothing is impossible with God” – a witness to the justice of God and the mercy of Christ.
My calling has always resounded well with the end of an Adrienne Rich poem:
“My heart is moved by all which I cannot save,
so much has been destroyed.
I must cast my lot with those who
age after age, stubbornly
with no extraordinary power
reconstitute the world.
Of course, we have extraordinary power through the Spirit of God. Imagine what we can do with that. We can, one by one, change the world.
Over the past thirty years, I have had the privilege of being in ministry in a variety of settings. From rural to urban, from elderly to young, from financially challenged to their cup runneth over, from spiritually mature to new seekers in Christ. All of these have touched my life and my spirit.
What gratitude my heart feels to God for allowing me to be his servant. Mother Teresa once said, “Our vocation is to belong to Christ, with the conviction that nothing shall be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.”