For The Rt. Rev Glenda Curry’s consecration, June 27th
These are historic times. We are experiencing pandemics and protests calling us to stay apart and come together. Such times leave us feeling like we are traversing uncharted, stormy seas trying to hold onto tradition and justice as well as anger and hope, as counterbalances. Today, in this historic consecration of you, Glenda Curry as the first woman bishop of Alabama, we remember that while events are historic, they are not unchartered. We know from the history of our faith, the call is not to try and keep everything balanced, but surrender to love. Surrendering to love, especially in historically difficult times is no easy task and comes with a cost.
Glenda, as you continue your beautiful ministry in Alabama Prisons, the Decatur Morgan Hospital, here at the Church of the Advent, or on Lookout Mountain, remember your call is not to try to balance everything in your life and throughout Alabama, your call is to continue to surrender your life for the sake of the Gospel. There is no greater love. Your surrendering offers a path as bishop to love with practicality, specificity, and scalability. In the wisdom of the church, you will begin this path where a miter is placed on your head and a crozier in your hand by being asked to take a knee. It is a powerful way to humble oneself and show reverence. Taking a knee is the opposite of kneeing someone. Using the sharp edge of a knee to hurt another is like wielding a sword. Taking a knee turns the sword into a plowshare. It is the act of becoming small, in order to allow something bigger to take place. It is an act of surrender and bravery.
You are following in the footsteps of great women who have taken a knee for the sake of love. Marianne Bogel, the first woman ordained in 1977 in this diocese. Mary Adelia Rosamond McLeod ordained in 1980 became the Bishop of Vermont in 1993. The list of heroic women breaking old ground, such as Deacons Carolyn Foster and Katherine Jacobs, the first African American women ordained in this diocese, goes on and on. We can trace that mother line all the way back to the woman at the well. She is the embodiment of what is not new. Her life is a reflection of the bonds of old injustices and prejudices. Jesus recognizes her. I have met her and you have met her. I have seen her in the refugee camps where women fleeing war and oppression have become part of the story of violence and vulnerability. You have seen her under bridges, on the backside of anger, inside prison walls, and the shadowed side of feigned civility. The proclamation to her is that shame and injustice have no position in being called to surrender to so that she can proclaim freedom. Those deemed as beggars become the preachers and she, the first evangelist in John’s Gospel, preaches today, “Come and see. You are not going to believe the wondrous work of Love that is coming in this ministry for these historic times.” The woman at the well proclaims to us that the giver and the receiver of healing are the same in God’s eye.
Last weekend I stood in an A-frame chapel in Nashville where with six people for a woman’s wedding. The woman like many of the women I serve in the community of Thistle Farms, knew sexual assault and drugs before she knew how to locate herself on a map. In the midst of the pandemic, economic hardship and cries from around the country that “I can’t breathe,” she was trying to plan a wedding and she was mad. She was furious and trying to stand her ground about what she felt like was unstated racism within the community, about her family, and money. She said, “I know you want me to be grateful, but I’m not, I am mad as hell.” She was probably as angry as the woman at the well when kindness is defined as being allowed to draw water.
There is plenty to be angry about in this world and plenty of reasons to step away from the well. But there is new life for us if we can stay and drink from the water love offers us. I showed up at the chapel before the ceremony a bit nervous as she and her maid of honor were fixing her dress. There was a long, silk lace that had to be threaded down her back and tucked into a bustle. Before long the two of us were on our knees trying to tighten the lace and tuck it all in. We laughed as we were us pulling and tucking and pulling and tucking everything into place. Minutes later she walked up the aisle through an empty church. I snapped a photo as soon as the ceremony ended and She was bathed a bright beam of light. She was radiant as she surrendered and made her promise to love, like you Glenda are now, like all of us long to do, like the woman at the well. We are both the broken and the healer. She asked me to send her the photo and she posted it all over social media, the modern equivalent of running to the city, saying “Come and see. There is light.” We don’t give up just because it’s hard or we are mad. We keep working for justice. We keep practicing peace. We keep surrendering all to love.
My prayer for you and all healers who know about surrender at the well is to continue to:
• Offer a knee when we need to surrender to love.
• Honor the places that have been broken open and transformed.
• Embrace humility by taking out the trash, visiting prisons and being anointed by others.
• Practice courage by facing injustices of our racist past lingering in our present so we can find a way to our mountaintop.
• Raise our consciousness through the allocation of budget and time.
• Challenge our understanding of lavish love by building shelters like cathedrals.
• Proclaim hope to all who have ears, “Come and see.”
Go in peace with the power offered to you as a Bishop of our beloved church, surrendering to the greatest force for change in the world, love. Amen.
Peace and love.
— Becca Stevens