MY FAITH JOURNEY:
I was baptized, confirmed and married in the Methodist Church – and still there is not one place, but a journey. In these times of sharing, all we can do is indicate a portion of the road we have traveled.
Last year in the Crosswinds Newsletter, I wrote about one section of my road – about how my father taught me to sing for the church and to see connections between music and love. It was my father’s influence that brought me to the choir at FUMC, and I am privileged to participate in this church’s music ministry. Today, though, I want to talk about the mothers on my faith journey.
When I was born in Fresno, California, five generations of women were living: we were in the newspaper! The oldest was my great-great grandmother, Elizabeth Howard, who brought her family from Tennessee to Texas to California on the train in the latter part of the nineteenth century. A strict disciplinarian, she taught in a one room school house and then taught the tenets of Methodism at home to her own children. A woman of small means, she nevertheless sponsored a pew in the oldest Methodist church in Fresno. Although I was younger than two when she died, family legends passed down about her encouraged me to connect religion, self-regulation, and education.
Her daughter, my Nana, who cared for me when I was an infant, sat with me on oppressive summer days and lived until I was 24, was a rock of faith, but apparently, a lot more fun than her own mother. Knowing that as a child, I was not allowed to make messes in my own home, she had a twinkle in her eye when we would go down to St. Paul’s Methodist to prepare the kitchen for Sunday and I would do the best job ever of scattering the pots and pans around while playing cook. Nana showed me that church could be a home. Among the rocks of faith in this church, Gerry McQuade reminded me a lot of my Nana.
Nana’s daughter, my Mamo, was the most important woman in my life, a dynamic person who spread God’s joy and was cherished by everyone who knew her. I can still feel her beautiful, smooth hand fold around mine as we walked to the local Methodist church together every summer Sunday morning.
These women loved fiercely because they had been broken – by bad health, cheating husbands, the deaths of children – and knew that the only way to heal was to give intensely to others. Thank God that I was one of the objects of their love.
When I came to SLC in 1992, I was now “the mother,” broken by divorce, fiercely loving my three-year-old son. Visiting this church, I met mothers of many races and classes, and I owe a special thanks to all the women who empathized with my struggles as a single parent before I met Bob – who has become a most saintly stepfather. It was here at FUMC that I finally began to see the nurturing motherhood of Christ, God in pain embracing the world.
After nearly twenty years of membership in this church, I am still journeying near an intersection of motherhood and belief. Thanks to those who attend the Women’s Spiritual Formation group, which I have led on the first Tuesday of every month; there I hear how the experiences of women in this church bring so much wisdom to Bible readings. These women are the mothers of my understanding. Considerations of spiritual motherhood have seeped into my professional life, and I have just completed a book entitled Scribit Mater: Mary and the Language of arts in the Literature of Medieval England, where I think about the Virgin Mary’s place in the history of education and literature.
Mother of God, how to be a mother for God? How to accept God as the mother I have always needed? How to endure loving amidst the brokenness? These things I will contemplate as I journey on, I hope, with the blessings of all of you, my mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters in Christ. Amen.