(#49 in a series of people who changed the course of my life)
Though Pacific School of Religion had been whispered in my ear off and on for months, I didn’t gain the associated quickened heartbeat when I would hear it mentioned (ala “OMG is that the Spirit?!”)–until I heard alumnus Darnell Fennell preach at Cathedral of Hope on Juneteenth Sunday in 2014.
As I sat there that morning, I heard so many things that I now realize informed who I have tried to live into ever since–“social issues ARE spiritual issues,”…”connecting the church to the world,”…”living to the vision of justice and inclusion,” along with several other things I would tweet and post on Facebook that day.
As you can read from the above, Darnell is also a prophet. He would say, regarding the Emancipation Proclamation,
“Texas had to give in. And if I may speak prophetically, Texas is going to have to give in a lot more in the future. The work of freedom is not done.”
And, despite the grandstanding and squawkings of some elected officials across the state, he was right–at least about marriage equality. (And he is also right in saying the work of freedom is not near done.)
In early 2015, I would cross paths with Darnell at an advocacy day at the state capitol. Some people called this kind of event too political to get involved in with a church but I believe these are also precisely the kinds of places people of faith need to show up. I was relieved to see him there, along with some of the folks who attend the church he founded in Houston since graduation–Just Love. We were able to spend some time talking about faith-based advocacy and the need for people of faith to rise up. We also talked about my plans to begin the application process at PSR. He provided me great encouragement–which happened to come with the same knowing look and half-grin that our mutual mentor Rev. Mitulski would get. (I could almost feel his joy when I messaged him months later that I had been accepted!)
I am going on this journey specifically because of people like Darnell who would remind me “to have not just a private relationship with God, but a public one” and that “liberation never comes if we can’t tell the truth.”
I intend to be as public as I can about what I believe faith calls me to do–what I believe it calls all of us to do. And though it will not always make me popular, I will stand up and tell the truth about issues of injustice and marginalization and what people of faith must do. Thank you, Darnell, for the inspiration; I walk in your footsteps.
I didn’t get her name right for months