Thea, lover of whole and broken hearts, you are witness to the last breath of the suicide victim. Abide with those the victim leaves behind; offer them your silent presence in the victim's ringing absence. Amen.
When Paul writes to the church at Thessalonica, he compares the ministry of himself and his fellow leaders to that of a mother.
But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother tenderly caring for her own children. So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us. -Thessalonians 2:7b-8
This ministry is one of gentleness, of refreshment, of steady abiding-with that overflows with love. He regards the members of the Thessalonian church as very dear. Belonging now to a church in which the vocations of women to ordained ministry are recognized and fully accepted, I find fresh meaning in this. In this passage, Paul is unafraid of comparing himself and other leaders to devoted women. In recommending himself to the Thessalonian church, he embraces a maternal image. In mothering, goodness may be found. In mothering, loyalty may be found. In mothering, unfettered love may be found. In mothering, all the nourishment a young one needs may be found. To be a gracious, loving, effective, Godly minister, in this passage, is to be a mother. I am grateful to be part of a church that embraces the title of "Mother" for its female priestly ministers. When I consider the call I hear to priestly ministry, considering it in terms of mothering enriches it beyond what any book on priesthood might say. Mothering is something I get. Mothering implies total commitment, total love, and totally deep joy--even in the midst of difficulties and trials. I would give anything for my children, including my life. Isn't this what the high priest, Jesus the Christ, does?
I began a spiritual practice of silence this morning--ten minutes, first thing after getting the baby her morning milk, eyes closed, hands and body open to receive. One thing I received was the final phrase from a Taizé song: "Come and listen to me." I couldn't remember in that moment what song it came from--all I could remember were those words. Without context, the words took new shape. Was God bidding? Was I bidding? Was someone else bidding? I realized that all three were doing the bidding. My heart turned then toward the fruits of the Spirit, and then to spiritual and corporal works of mercy. As my silence ended, I wondered whether there were opportunities available to volunteer in local hospices and prisons--to listen, to be present, to abide in what is difficult and deeply transforming. I found out that there are abundant hospice volunteer opportunities in the Valley of the Sun. I found far less when I was looking for volunteer opportunities for prison ministry, at least from within an Episcopal or interfaith context. I asked for help on Facebook and got information from two of the leaders from my parish, one of whom pointed me to a notice on the Trinity Cathedral website that Bishop Kirk Smith is planning a summit for those involved in or interested in prison ministry within the Episcopal Diocese of Arizona. Coincidence? Spirit stirring in open hearts for the common good?