A few weeks ago, I attended the funeral of a woman who was the spiritual mother of many. Gwen White inspired through music, programs in children and spirituality, retreats, and spiritual direction. She inspired me to be patient with my wiggly young children in church. But what I admired most about her was way she could take an assortment of friends and craft a circle of discipleship that endured over years.
Going through records headed for the NE archives this winter, we came across other mothers in faith. There’s a pastoral record in which one still living sister in Christ, was rated (by her husband) in her role as the Pastor’s spouse. It notes she was cooperative with the total church program (!), who kept her house neatly, her person well groomed, and her children happy; that she was in generally good mental health and emotional balance.
Rev. Alice Hart is merely mentioned in the notes that remain, but in her lifetime, she followed Christ’s call to become one of the first four women in the United States admitted to membership in an annual conference in the Methodist Church. They are sometimes called the “Four H’s” as all had last names beginning with “H.” She loved counseling, religious writing, and oil painting, besides her own two children, and the children of God she nurtured in the many churches she served.
There are notes on paper that remember Rev. Kathleen Weed, beloved and creative MidMaine Pastor, early friend of Mechuwana, ordained an elder in 1949 by Bishop John Wesley Lord, but not able to become a clergy member of the Maine Annual Conference until 1957, when the prohibitions against women was lifted. (She was born in Avon, Maine where the original drafter of the Discipline’s restrictive rules was raised over a century before.) “She was really an expert in the leading of worship techniques, very good in leading the people in experiences of reverence and devotion.” remembered Rev. Ed Allen.
In their book, “Bearing Fruit: Ministry with Real Results,” Lovett Weems and Tom Berlin trace the fruit of God’s expanding reign, the fruit of righteousness, and the fruit of justice in Scripture that these faith mothers loved dearly enough to share with others. “….God calls the covenant people to live lives of fruitfulness,” Lovett and Tom write, “We are to labor for the advance of God’s reign for righteousness to be normative to the human character, and for justice to bless everyone. Just as in the past, God intends for the covenant people of today to be fruitful and make disciples in response to the grace we know in Christ Jesus.”
I have been blessed to serve in churches where these women, lay and clergy, walked before me. Each of them lived the biblical mandate for fruitfulness in their life and work. They planted, they tended, they pruned. The resistance they faced takes other forms in the church today. Each of them found ways to treat resistance as creative tension, holding true to God’s vision, pruning prejudice, pruning unfruitful practices, pruning anything within themselves that was not life giving. May we be inspired to do the same, by the breath of the same living Christ Spirit that kissed the world through their lives.
In God’s Grace, Karen
Karen L Munson
A pastor and artist, I'm wondering while I'm wandering through God's marvelous creation.