On Thursday, September 1, 1988, I set out from the rectory to carry out my first assignment as the new rector of Emmanuel Episcopal Church, Warrenton, NC.; get the mail. A hot, muggy day I could feel the moisture beading up on the inside of my stiff new plastic clergy collar. As I rounded the corner of the church I could see a woman standing very primly on the top step of the post office. On this already uncomfortably warm day, she was wearing a hat and gloves, both hands holding her silvery pocketbook, her pastel blue suit complimenting her blue-gray hair curling out from under a veil. I smiled at her as I started past her into the lobby. Just then she turned towards me and began her speech. “My dear, I am here to welcome you to Warrenton and to tell you that we are so thankful that that Bishop of yours sent us a woman and not a black.”
How I wished I had the words that Jesus would say. People often told him to his face how deviant he was. “What good can come out of Nazareth?” “He casts out demons by Beelzebub.”
Clearly, the group who had sent this woman, whom I never saw again, labeled the Episcopal Church, the Bishop, members of the black race and women priests deviants.
Labels, stereotypes keep us distant and distrusting. Sometimes that seems to be what part of the larger community tries to teach us to do.
How often do I deny myself the gift and opportunity of knowing someone for their uniqueness because I lack the imagination and the empathy to make that discovery?
Gracious one, may our hearts not be hardened. Help us to listen for your voice. Amen.