(#39 in a series of people who changed the course of my life)
For about six years of my life, I was deeply bitter toward religion. Feeling rejected by it, judged by it, victimized by it, I spent almost six years away from it, processing the experience, trying to still find God in spite of it, and doing a fair amount of wallowing in it.
And then God said,
“Enough. Get over it.
And get over yourself.”
I’ll never forget my first time at Cathedral of Hope (3/9/12), hearing the message of Rev. Dr. Jo Hudson–so many emotions, feeling so loved. And ever since, the Universe has exposed me to incredible messengers of truth and liberation—many from Cathedral and many beyond.
Dawson Taylor. Todd Scoggins. Katherine Godby. Jim Mitulski. Steve Sprinkle. Shelley Hamilton. Mike Wright-Chapman. Gary Kindley, Alberto Magana. Colleen Darraugh, Rabbi Fisch. Darnell Fennell, Neil Thomas, Yadi Martinez, Marvin Roberts, Isabel Marquez, Alex Byrd, Carol West, Eric Folkerth, Katie Hays, Yvette Flunder. Carmarion Anderson, Deneen Robinson, Marvin White. Irie Session. Jeff Hood…and on and on and on I could go.
My phone is burgeoning with notes (and tweets) from their sermons and lessons. And my heart, full of their words, is now largely healed and open as a result of what they taught me.
I remember how Jo just made me feel so deeply loved at a time I had still not completely embraced who I was. Her inspired words were delivered with power and liberation. Any interaction with her involved a level of eye contact that felt as though she were glimpsing into my soul and loving me. From then on, it was just a flood of blessings. Dawson, Todd, and Katherine in particular opened up their tender hearts week after week, sustaining us through a very difficult time. Jim, the San Francisco liberal, inspired me with every single message and is responsible for what I now understand about the role of religion as a tool of liberation and, in the process, is largely who influenced my current path. I learned at the feet of prophets like Shelley and Steve who are the kind of world-changers I aspire to be. I have witnessed and learned from the servant hearts of Mike, Alberto, Yadi, and Gary and how authentically they love people. I feel so much joy and encouragement when I hear Isabel, Carol, and Deneen. I have been shaken by the power and conviction of pastors like Carmarion, Yvette, Marvin, Colleen, Darnell, Alex, Marvin, and Irie and inspired by faith leaders who are allies like Rabbi Fisch and Eric. And I have been challenged and refined by Jeff and newly inspired by Neil who model for me what faith can empower us all to do.
All of these individuals—in their own unique ways—restored what religion and faith always had the capacity for in my life and helped me free myself from bitterness and anger. They inspired me to embrace how fearfully and wonderfully made I am and to simultaneously look outside myself to let others know they are, too. They challenged me–sometimes overtly–to live into a greater calling and purpose the Creator has for me. They modeled for me humanity overcoming imperfection to be a beacon of hope to the world.
I am on this path today because of their words, their example, and their authenticity—individuals living out their call in ministry and placed in my path–our paths–for just such a purpose.