This Sunday I am so excited to celebrate Laity Sunday. Even though I will not be preaching this Sunday (three of our laity will be!) I did want to take this blog post to thank so many of the laity in my life who have helped me further discern God’s calling upon my life.
First, there was my youth pastor, Fran Givens, at Bon Air United Methodist Church who first recognized God’s calling upon my life and gave me opportunity after opportunity to celebrate and further discern my calling to the ministry. Fran opened my eyes to mission and pushed me to serve beyond what I thought was capable of myself. Then of course there is Martha Stokes, an amazing professional lay person, who was my boss at The Virginia Conference of The United Methodist Church when I was an intern for the Commission on Disabilities & Camp Rainbow Connection. Martha modeled to me what true servant ministry looked like. God had placed a calling upon her life to be in ministry to those considered “the least of these” by so many. Her humility, confidence, and passion to help others inspired me to always think about all people, not just the people in front of me, or those I see every Sunday morning. That very same summer I had the opportunity to spend a lot of time with the one and only Angie Williams, who at that time was the Director of Ministries of Youth and Young People. I have found no other person more passionate about youth than Angie. She is the true embodiment of God’s grace as she continues to fight for children. Angie and I were blessed to continue to serve together when we were trained in VocationCare in Atlanta and now I get to consider her a friend as well.
When I was in seminary at Duke, one of my field education placements was at Project Compassion. This non-profit aims to help those who are ill and cannot help themselves. It helps create support systems to care for those experiencing illness who would not have a support system otherwise. There, I was blessed to work alongside the director, James Brooks, and co-workers, Sonia Norris, and Tiffany Christensen, who wrote the book “Sick Girl Speaks” giving a voice of advocacy to those who go through the hospital system. These three incredible people, these servant ministers, taught me about the healthcare systems and gaps where people were getting left behind, they inspired me to care for those who are ill by seeing them as whole persons, not as people who were sick. They taught me what it means to die with dignity. These lessons have been invaluable to my practice of ministry.
I am inspired by so many amazing laity. I could not leave Amanda Stallard of this blog, because Amanda is clearly called to organize and implement projects for the glory of God and any church would be blessed to have her. Even though we have not spoken in a while, and she is on her journey to becoming a new mother, Amanda’s gifts of servant leadership surely enhance the body of Christ.
There are so many people I could name in this blog from the five churches I have served. All along the way in my 10 years of ministry I have been blessed to serve alongside laity who are passionate about God and discipleship. My most recent laity friend, Ansley Higginbotham, the Director of Youth at Reveille United Methodist Church, inspires me by her call to serve youth. She tirelessly advocates, empowers, and educates our youth on what it means to be a true disciple of Christ. I am so thankful for this example of passionate faith and humble service in my life.
As we approach Laity Sunday we have to remember that there is no hierarchy in the body of Christ and we should always celebrate and thank the laity for answering God’s calling upon their life to serve. We are called to serve side by side, not from above.
Today I am blessed with laity friends, staff I have worked with at churches, people I have come in contact with through various ministry opportunities. So I will celebrate the laity this Sunday and every day because each of the people I have named above and so many others have made it possible for me to be where I am today and I will be forever grateful. Thank you mentors, friends, and colleagues in ministry. Know you are loved, appreciated, and vital for this crazy thing we call discipleship. Keep up the good work!
Prayer: Generous God, we thank you for the gift of the laity in our midst. Those behind the scenes who make Sunday mornings and events possible, those up in front serving in leadership positions, those who open the doors, turn on the lights and make sure the church is locked. Those who cook countless cookies and those who are out in the parking lot embodying your hospitality of welcome. Those who embody the traditions of the church and lift up the saints through their practice of Christianity, those who are thankful for all who came before them to give them the gift of the church. We thank you for those called beyond the local church within their homes, and their corporations to embody your gospel of grace. We thank you for laity who challenge us, inspire us, encourage us, and hold us accountable. Thank you God for the gift of laity today and always who make up the beautiful tapestry of the body of Christ, building up the kingdom of God on earth now. Amen.