This morning, as I sat down to pray and meditate, I read these words from Howard Thurman:
“Today, I make my Sacrament of Thanksgiving. I begin with the simple things of my days….”
Thurman goes on to list those simple things. When I read the prompt for the day, I could not help but think about a sacrament of Thanksgiving…a sacrament of Thanksgiving for those who have supported and sustained my ministry. And so today I make a Sacrament of Thanksgiving. It’s fitting for All Saints and for the season of thanksgiving which is fast approaching.
Today, I make a Sacrament of Thanksgiving.
I give thanks for those who have helped me on the way.
First–always first–my husband who when I said, “I think I’m meant to be a priest,” rolled his eyes and said, “Here we go again.” And then he went with me to seminary. All the time loving me and supporting me on the path.
Then there are the sisters who’ve been there on the path. Can a mom be a sister? For sure. And so I thank my mom. When I told her I was going to seminary to be a priest, she said, “Oh Susie, will you be safe?” Shortly after I was ordained (she came to my ordination though she was 89 and was still recovering from the removal of a cancerous breast), she wrote a little note saying, “I am so proud of you.” When I think of what the face of God looks like, I picture my mom.
A refugee, no diocese to sponsor me, no parish I could call my own. The place where I sought refuge on my way to ordination turned out to be a place no one could safely call home. And then I happened on All Saints in Palo Alto and a wonderful woman named Margaret who said to me, “I see priest in you.” She went on to say, “This church has messed with you enough. You will a priest. We’ll see to that.” And so I was. In a timely fashion.
But call is so much more that a call to priesthood or ordained ministry. The ministry to which I’ve been called has come through so many different voices, so many different people saying, “Have you thought about?” or “I can see you here.” Sometimes it’s a conversation around a table,as it was for me with the Rev. Debbie Little, Executive Director of Ecclesia Ministries who first beguiled me into ministry with people on the streets as we sat around a dinner table in a fancy house in San Francisco.
Kathy McAdams, my friend and colleague from All Saints in Palo Alto sealed the deal when she said to me on Palm Sunday, “I’m sick. I’m going home. You celebrate.” There I was, a priest without a pulpit or an altar leading worship with a congregation of homeless people on the Boston Common. There I was, a homeless priest three thousand miles from home finding myself at home. Finding myself a home.
There is an old African proverb, “I am because we are.” I am because of the people who have called out the priest in me. Those who have loved me, those who have led me, and those with whom I serve. This morning, on the Rev Gals Blog Pals Friday Five I read,
“As I transition from a vocation as a parish priest to a very different kind of ministry I have been astounded by the kindness and helpfulness of others. Their words have encouraged and affirmed me, and they have shared ideas and initiated actions to benefit my new venture. “
The people who have most fully called out in me my gifts of ministry have been the people I’ve served at the Congregation of St. Martin’s, the congregation of homeless and housed I serve on not only on Sundays but throughout the week. To them I am deeply grateful for they have made it possible for “my deepest joy to meet the world’s deepest need.”