A servant’s heart is what it was. Yes.
The cerulean-blue eyes and the flowing orange hair (reminding me to this day of a liquescent sunset over a Carolina beach) didn’t hurt, either. The heart of a true servant of the Great Spirit, though … that is what called me to commune with the woman that I’m honored to endure much of life’s trials and, certainly, its celebrations with.
Chapel of Christ the King, an Episcopal mission in inner-city Charlotte, N.C., was a place where Penelope (Penny) felt at home. It was, in fact, a home away from home for her; a place to commune. When we met, she was volunteering her time there, working with the children at the preschool each week on her day off. She loved it, and it showed.
The Right Reverend Gary Gloster, retired Bishop Suffragan of North Carolina, was the priest at the chapel at the time, and served as her spiritual advisor for a number of years, and was quick to point out the value he placed on her ministry there. Penny held membership at a rather well-to-do upscale parish not far from where she lived. It was always interesting to observe her demeanor and spiritual reflection after some time there or at the chapel. The juxtaposition was remarkable. Her ministry at the chapel caused her to come alive in a way like no other.
It has been gratifying to observe her servant ministries in the church. Early in our relationship, she was also a co-mentor in the Episcopal Church’s Education for Ministry (EFM) program. It is an in-depth course (spanning four years) of theological education for lay persons. It was exciting to watch her help others gain forward movement in their own journeys.
Later, when I was a clergy associate at Charlotte’s St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, she took another leadership position, this time on my youth team, where an extraordinary group of men and women helped me lead the ministry that consisted of the Montessori-based Catechesis of the Good Shepherd program, where she served as a catechist for the children.
When we moved to the North Carolina Mountains, she was called yet again, this time to leadership as a sole mentor for another EFM group. Here in the Pacific Northwest, she is engaged once more, and I am excited to see what she does next. It continues to be an education for my own ministry to watch, listen to, and attempt to honor the woman with whom I’ve been fortunate enough to commune.
It took me a while to get it right, to recognize excellence when it comes my way. When I saw it, embracing it was by far the smartest thing I’ve ever done. I dated many women who were exceptional in their own way. This woman, however, opened a window into my soul, and in blew the breeze of charity and agape, preceding the eros form of love that invariably followed.
In the Letter of Paul to the Ephesians, the idea of mutual respect, sharing a high regard for God in Christ, is expressed: “and submit to each other out of respect for Christ” (5:21; CEB). Mutual respect is essential when considering a calling to commune with someone else. My call to commune with Penny came about at a time when I finally stopped working so hard to make a relationship happen. It wasn’t up to me.
We were called to commune within the context of something greater than ourselves, and my life has been blessed beyond calculation.
With whom are you called to commune? I hope you are as fortunate as I have been.