It isn’t often that two people reared in different cultures and from different geographical areas share a uniquely intersecting journey, but I have been blessed that this is the case with Bishop Michael Curry and me. Here’s the story of that journey:
My journey with Bishop Curry began during a visit to my late husband’s family home in Baltimore, Maryland. It was the weekend of Palm Sunday, and I felt a strong need to attend church. I selected an Episcopal church from the yellow pages and ultimately arrived at St. James Church, where the Rev. Michael Curry was rector and preacher. During Michael’s sermon, he encouraged the congregation to live a life of compassion, conviction and commitment to do God’s work in a world sorely in need of God’s unconditional love. I was deeply moved and inspired by his sermon, and felt a connection to Michael. During the coffee hour, I was delighted to find out that Michael and his family had roots in North Carolina. Although I didn’t think I would see them again, I knew that I would never forget Michael’s inspirational sermon.
Fast forward several years, with my husband now deceased, I made the decision to attend Yale Divinity School, where I learned that Michael Curry was a graduate. My senior year of seminary required attendance at diocesan convention. Imagine my surprise to discover that Michael was a candidate in the election for the new bishop of the Diocese of North Carolina. As the election process dragged on, the election committee decided on one final ballot. I decided to pray and to walk the labyrinth. As I was finishing my prayerful walk, the delegation announced the election of Michael Curry as the 11th bishop of the Diocese of North Carolina, on the 11th ballot, at 11 a.m. (I would like to think that my prayers worked!)
Having completed seminary and been ordained as a deacon, I was selected to serve as chaplain to the current bishop for the consecration of Michael Curry one week following my ordination. What an experience! I marvel at the way my journey continued with my new bishop. I believe it was Michael who planted the seed in me to respond to God’s call to ministry. It was such an honor also to serve as a priest with Bishop Curry for three years prior to my relocating to All Saints.
For many years my clergy residency remained in North Carolina, and throughout that time I made several attempts to invite Michael to All Saints. My efforts finally reached fruition ten years later, when he accepted an invitation to preach on a Pentecost Sunday. What a Sunday that was!!!! I still recall some of his words of his sermon in which he stated, “Because all religions have been taken hostages by extremists, it’s time for a sensible center to rise up and bear witness.” Bishop Curry went on to challenge us not to give up; not to get weary. We were to stand up for love; stand up for goodness; stand up for justice; and to stand up for Jesus and go forth and bear witness. [You can watch that sermon on our YouTube Channel here.]
In a recent interview Bishop Curry shared, “We must join together in the Jesus Movement.” He went on to explain, “The Jesus Movement is God’s mission through Jesus and if we are following in Jesus’ footstep, living his teachings and living in his spirit, then it’s not ours alone. And, all of the challenges before us, we can engage them; all of the difficulties we face, we can surmount them, and we can move forward because we are not moving on our own power, we’re living and moving on the power of God’s love, and nothing can stop God’s love.”
On November 1st — All Saints Sunday — I will be in attendance at the National Cathedral in Washington as my friend and mentor Bishop Michael Curry becomes the Most Reverend Michael Bruce Curry and the 27th Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States. Thus, the journey continues.
It is my belief that our new presiding bishop embodies and fully understands his words that “witness to Jesus makes a difference.” And it is my prayer that the Most Reverend Michael Curry continues to be the same kind of inspiration to the Episcopal Church and to the Anglican Communion as he has been to me!
The Reverend Zelda Kennedy is the Senior Associate for Pastoral Care at All Saints Church in Pasadena. As noted above, Zelda will represent All Saints Church at the Investiture of Bishop Curry as Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in Washington DC on November 1, 2015. She will be on sabbatical leave for the month of November, returning to All Saints on December 1st.