I came to the Canton Church of the Brethren in 1993 to fill the pulpit in the absence of the pastor who had recently resigned. Within a few months, the congregation asked if I’d consider a call to become the pastor. After prayerful discernment, I agreed and have been serving in this congregation since January 1994.
The Church of the Brethren has been part of who I am since my birth. For most of my formative years there was no question about the denomination in which I would participate. In my teen years I began to explore what it means to be a Christian. I was pulled by influences beyond the Church of the Brethren. Through this period of time, I remained Brethren and as time passed I experienced a more convincing call to set-apart ministry and a richer connection with the Church of the Brethren.
I began to appreciate in greater depth the Brethren peace position, the emphases on non-resistance and service, the ways in which faith and practice are inherently intertwined, the importance of scripture and how we have liberty to explore interpretations, the significance of caring for creation, and the message of the inclusiveness of God’s love for all. Through continuing education, reading a wide range of material, and practical application, I have continued to hone skills for ministry, such as caring, teaching, preaching, being present in crisis, being a non-anxious presence in conflict, and building relationships. I have also learned the value of carrying out all of these ministry opportunities in community, that together we have greater potential to work for the benefit of our world and the good of our neighbors.
I understand more fully how well Brethren-flavored ministry advances the dignity of all of God’s creation. How good it is to be part of a congregation that is intentionally engaged in regarding so highly the worth of the created order. We are, in my view, a beacon of light in the pervading darkness of hatred, apathy, and discontent. What a joy it is to continue the work of Jesus…peacefully…simply… together.
How long have you been attending CCOB? What brought you to this particular church? Why do you continue to attend?
I began attending Canton COB in late 1982. Harley and Jackie brought me in to sing in the choir. They met me in the Playhouse production of THE FANTASTICKS. I had just moved to Canton in May of 1982 (the year Canton seemed to be ¨closing¨ due to the mine shutdowns, CAT strikes and IH closing), auditioned, and got the role of Luisa. John was in the show as well as Bob Juraco, Larry Eskridge, Randy Weaver and others. Ed Barnhart (who was a CCOB member then) directed; Richard Etter was choreographer; Jackie was the stage manager. Harley was in the show, too. It was pretty Brethreny.
If I didn’t attend the Church of the Brethren, I would probably not be a part of organized religion at all. Being raised Southern Baptist taught me all about what Christianity should NOT be. Being a child of the 60s, I was very much into the peace and civil liberties movements of the time. Still am. The Church of the Brethren seemed to be one of the few denominations that ¨got it.¨ I think churches are more for people than for God anyway so I need a church that ¨fits.¨
What CCOB tenets are especially attractive to you?
Some reliance on the book of James as a way of living; the openness and willingness to explore tough issues; social justice; peace.
What does the mission statement (Dignity: Fostering wholeness, balance, and peace through respect of God’s creation) mean to your congregation?
Hard to say what it means to the congregation because everything depends on a person’s point of view. We are diverse in many, many ways and often see things quite differently. However, I do believe our congregation upholds the tenets of peace, love, and justice — as a whole. We are more followers of Jesus (in my personal opinion) than we are Christians — and that’s a good thing. To you personally? It’s everything I believe in and TRY to uphold.
In what way do you personally make a positive difference in your congregation´s mission to attain dignity for all?
I like to deny that I am a leader but I admit that I was given the ability to ¨change a room.¨ I am also a connector and a creative, problem-solver. These are not skills I take any credit for but, undeniably, they are gifts I was given. Sometimes I´d like to let others tell me what to do but that doesn’t happen very often and I know it’s because I’m ¨supposed to be using my gift¨ (Okay, I get it!). So, I think my gifts are important to effectively organize, creatively think, and motivate others toward our mission.
My understanding of God is quite different than most people. I’ve said this before, but I often think (and have since 1977 thought) that George Lucas has it right. May the Force Be With You. I don’t often share my own unique understandings because I believe we all come to them in our own ways. I guess that comes from my belief in dignity for all, too.