CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith from a Place of Winter for the Years of Winter… ©
When I was in my first year out of seminary, I was invited to give a lecture at a Roman Catholic women’s college. I was very impressed with myself, even though I knew that I was invited primarily because I was local and free and the only Protestant minister that Sister Mary Jane knew.
Pope John XXIII had declared a new day in the Roman Catholic Church, a time to throw open the windows and let in some fresh air, a time to talk with one another rather than at one another, a time to emphasize our commonalities more than our differences. So St. Mary of the Woods decided it needed a Day of Ecumenism. Sister Mary Jane was put in charge. I was the Wesley Foundation [Methodist campus ministry] minister for Indiana State University and Rose Polytechnic Institute [now Rose-Hulman University]. Since I ministered in an academic setting, Sister Mary Jane assumed I was an academic person and could give a lecture on ecumenism.
The entire student body and faculty assembled. They all listened intently. I cannot remember what I said, but all there were gracious in hearing, and in laughing politely when they were supposed to.
Then we had a panel discussion in front of the whole group, three Sisters of Providence professors and myself, about the way forward in the church toward ecumenism. Sister Mary Jane, who was 25 years older than I but was then and always remained one of my favorite friends, started by saying: “First, there can be no altering of the sacraments. There will always have to be seven sacraments.”
I knew it wasn’t a good way to start a dialogue. That kind of statement automatically closes down rather than opens up. The other, younger sisters on the panel looked quite uncomfortable, so I decided to let them take that on. That was difficult. Sister Mary Jane was a grand dame. They had to defer to her. But they did their best to push back up the window that Sister Mary Jane had pulled down. We had a good conversation. It opened up good avenues of ministry that my Wesley Foundation students and St. Mary of the Woods students and faculty were able to pursue together.
The next year Wesley Foundation students and nuns from St. Mary’s, including Sister Mary Jane, went together to Albany, GA to register black voters, before that was allowed in GA. Dr. Renata Judson loaned them her station wagon. They brought it back with bullet holes in it, from when Bob Mullins, our Wesley Foundation student president, was chased by KKK members while driving to a grocery. It was that kind of time.
It doesn’t make much difference how many sacraments you think the church needs when you are being shot at for Jesus.
John Robert McFarland
The “place of winter” mentioned in the title line is Iron Mountain, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula [The UP], where life is defined by winter even in the summer! [This phrase is explained in the post for March 20, 2014.]
I used to keep a careful index of all the things I told in this blog so that I would not repeat. That has become unwieldy. Now I just trust to… what’s it called… oh, yes, memory. Sorry about repeats.
I have also started an author blog, JUST WORDS, about writing and reading. Writing guru Kristen Lamb says author blogs are counter-productive, that blogs must be “high concept.” I don’t know what that means, but consider Just Words as a high concept blog in preparation for the publication, by Black Opal Books, of my novel, VETS, about four handicapped and homeless Iraqistan veterans who are accused of murdering a VA doctor, in 2015. http://johnrobertmcfarland-author.blogspot.com/
I tweet as yooper1721.