"Purple Threads" by District Superintendent, Rev. Carol Kress

 

 

Purple Threads

 

Welcome to my blog.  The name of it derives from the testimony of Lydia. She was one of the early converts to Christianity.  Lydia was a business woman. It was difficult to dye fabric purple in ancient times.  But Lydia had perfected this art.  She lived in Philippi where she carried on her lucrative trade and supported several servants.  This woman was converted to Christianity by Paul and became a noted disciple.  She was one of the wealthy women who opened their homes to missionaries and the first ‘house churches.’ 

The title of my blog is a tribute to Lydia and other female disciples who have woven together their threads of faith and passed them forward.  By stitching together these reflections of mine, I pray you will see the fabric of my faith and recognize the value of your own.    R.C.K.

March 3, 2019

…. I want to tell you a story 

Dear Friends – because of the action of the Special Session of General Conference (Feb. 2019), I’ve been thinking hard about what the United Methodist Church means to me and how I want to be in ministry with you. I feel like I am walking on a narrow balance beam. Church members have been sharing their reactions to the Special Session of General Conference and they are flavored with emotions.  Some of the feelings have surprised me.  I made assumptions about that congregation this pastor or their family which were not correct. Making assumptions is one of my bad habits.  So during this time it is important for me to remember my task is to listen and to simply hold the reaction of others as ramifications of the General Conference sink in.  It’s important for pastors to do that during any time of high anxiety or tension.

But I have my own thoughts too.  So, as I reflect upon the United Methodist Church which I know and love, the Holy Spirit reminded me of something that happened to me when I was young. Thirty-one years ago, I was a last-year student at St. Paul School of Theology in Kansas City. To help pay for my education I worked as the Director of Children and Youth Ministries for a U.M. church in Independence, MO.  The school year had just started when (after a long arduous time) my husband and I decided to divorce.  Not long after our decision I met with the Sr. Pastor of the church to tell him.

You should know that during those days Bishop Handy of the Missouri West Conference, was concerned too many clergy were divorcing.  So as a way to discourage divorce he asked Missouri clergy to be slow to make the decision, and he had ways to help make it be so.  The Sr. Pastor had a report form given to him by his District Office.  It addressed the divorce of clergy and he went through it with me.  According to the report I was to provide the following information to the D.S. and Bishop: 1) document my spouse and I had been in marriage counseling two years, minimum.  2) document my spouse had initiated the divorce.  3) write a justification for the divorce and 4) sign a statement that I understood the divorce would be discussed by the Cabinet and it would be a consideration regarding an appointment. My Sr. Pastor recommended that I should submit the completed report to my Iowa D.S, and Bishop as soon as possible; while our divorce was still pending.

Please note I was not a part of the Missouri West Conference.  My Sr. Pastor believed caution is the better part of valor, and he was helping me.  So, following his advice, I completed the report.  And by the end of the week all the information (along with my worrisome prayers) were sealed in a packet and mailed off to Rev Weldon Whitenack, the Des Moines District Superintendent, and Bishop Ruben Job, Iowa Conference. 

Within days (and I assume on the day the packet was received) my phone rang.  When I answered I was speaking to Bishop Job:  the Bishop said “Thank you for sending this report to me. Now, I have a question for you….  Are you alright?”  Before the phone call ended my Bishop was offering a prayer which ended as he said “May Carol know she is going to be welcomed home to Iowa.  And help the Cabinet find just the right place for her to be in ministry for you.” My thankfulness to Bishop Job for his offer of Christ's love and mercy extends to this day.

This is a true story which happened thirty-one years ago.  I do not hold Bishop Handy nor the Missouri West Conference in judgement.  It was a different time and a different debate being navigated in the church.  I share it today because I know what it is like to be in emotional pain and to receive the gift of grace.   I believe United Methodist pastors and leaders are at our best when we utter similar words to vulnerable people.  So please be patient and kind with your flock right now.  Listen to their stories, sit with them and hear their questions, their pain, or whatever it is they are prepared to express.  This is not a time for hard words.  It’s a time to be a disciple whose hands are open and whose mouth utters words of Christ-like care.  Thank you for all the lives you are touching, relationships you are building and prayers you are praying.