My sense of call to stand for co-moderator came through the connectional church, through partners in ministry, and through the belief that I have experiences and insights to share. It has been shaped by my faith in God, my reliance on Jesus, and my seeking for the movement of the Holy Spirit. It was confirmed and bolstered by friends and colleagues who know my work with marginalized communities, struggling congregations and thriving churches. And now that call has been confirmed by both Presbyteries I serve who know my leadership and my gifts in their endorsement to stand alongside Vilmarie as co-moderators of the 223rd General Assembly.
I attended my first General Assembly in 2012 in Pittsburgh as the Resource Presbyter for the Presbytery of Northern New England. From the moment the meeting was called into order, I was hooked. There was a palpable sense of the Holy Spirit at work in the conversations and deliberations in the room, and I longed to be more than an observer. Returning home, I requested the handbook from the Office of General Assembly on the process of standing for moderator.
In 2016, watching Jan and Denise answer questions and then be elected as our first co-moderators, my wondering from four years earlier began to blossom into possibility. I turned to a friend from seminary who has known me for over eighteen years now and asked, “What would you think about me doing that some day?”
Close colleagues and friends responded with immediate enthusiasm, which I pushed against. “Why? What do you think I have to offer to our church in this time and place?” Their questions back to me helped me test the shape of my discernment, as the sense of call continued to grow and mature.
Towards the end of the assembly, Jan addressed the gathering and said something like, “Someone sitting here is wondering if they’re next. I want to tell you to go for it.” The first friend I had asked immediately texted me, “I think she’s talking to you.”
Once I returned to my work, though, the thought of serving two Presbyteries and standing for co-moderator felt overwhelming. My sense of call to Boston and Northern New England hadn’t shifted, and, if anything, had strengthened. The needs of our immigrant congregations and emerging worshiping communities, the challenges facing rural, suburban, and urban churches, and the unfolding possibilities every where I turned required everything I had to offer. I took stock of the coming months, prayed hard, and finally released the dream of standing. It wasn’t the right time, and I needed to focus on the people to whom God had called me.
Then a crisis exploded within the Presbytery of Northern New England. The Marturia Presbyterian Church, our Indonesian congregation in Rochester, NH, reached out in panic and desperation. The long limbo of “Temporary Protected Status” they had been living in suddenly ended, and members of the church were told to buy plane tickets to return to a country they had fled in fear ten, fifteen, and twenty years ago. The Presbytery kicked into gear, the Synod came alongside, and members from Presbyterian Disaster Assistance and the Office of Immigration Issues, as well as the Stated Clerk, came to offer support, advice, and the presence of the larger church.
During the Stated Clerk’s visit, I asked him to encourage the next co-moderators to continue inviting the larger church to read a book together, something I had led both Presbyteries to embrace and used to plan education and retreats. Sitting there in the passenger seat in my car, J. Herbert said, “Well, maybe that will be you.”
I was stunned. I hadn’t thought about standing for co-moderator for months. After a few heartbeats, I replied, “I had actually considered that, but I don’t think I can do it now.” To which he replied, “Now is the time.”
Later, when we were alone together in the car, my husband turned to me. “You heard that. You have to do this.”
Suddenly, all the conversations from the previous summer, all the thinking and praying, all of the searching for the movement of the Holy Spirit came rushing back. I met with my spiritual director. I prayed a lot. Three weeks later, I called the Moderator of the Presbytery of Boston and then the Moderator of the Presbytery of Northern New England to broach the possibility with them. Both responded quickly and unequivocally with encouragement and support.
For me, this call has been informed by listening, by seeing the movement of the Holy Spirit, by looking back and noticing how God continued to prepare the path even when I thought I was no longer walking it, and by the faith I have that Christ will indeed be a sure foundation for me, no matter what comes. It is a call to remind this church that I love that the God I love is not through with us yet, that Jesus is still alive, and the wind of the Holy Spirit is blowing us into new waters, new possibilities, a new time. It is a call to offer all of who I am, all of how God has gifted me, all of my faith and all of my weakness, to service within the body of Christ.
It is a call I have embraced with fear and trepidation, with joy and gladness, confident that the grace bestowed upon me in baptism is sufficient because it is God’s grace.