(#13 & #12 in a series of people who
changed the course of my life)
My life has been like a bulb kept wrapped up in the dark during the long, harsh winter and then, at just the right time, returned to the fertile soil and, showered with gentle rains and the warmth of the sun, stretch out, ready to take root and bloom.”
Two formidable women are responsible as much as anyone for the fact that I am, in a sense, beginning to bloom. One, whom I shall call Prophet, is the one that started it; the other I shall call Encourager is the one whose words have inspired confidence and faith.
Rev. Shelley Hamilton and soon-to-be-Rev. DebiSu Yelverton—consorts one to the other—are two of the more spirit-filled and generous-with-their-spirit people I have ever met.
I first encountered Shelley at the service for a straight ally, Trish Hudson, whom the community had lost all too soon. I had never been to Cathedral of Hope before and brought my untoward, pre-conceived notions about a “gay church” into the space with me. When I saw how many people had gathered there and then heard her words of healing and compassion, I knew my notions had been baseless and wrong. Shelley was so gentle yet so earnest and so very comforting to everyone within the sound of her voice. (Once I started attending Cathedral, I would from time-to-time get to hear her more fiery side as well.
Then one Saturday in early 2013 at the breakfast the church facilitates for the homeless in the area, she pulled me aside, placed her hands onto my shoulders and looked into my eyes and said, “I have been praying for you. God has revealed to me that you need to go to seminary.”
Needless to say, I was taken aback. A lot. I smiled, thanked her, and then back-pedaled vigorously. Unrelenting, she explained to me that the church—and not just Cathedral of Hope—needed young leaders immediately and that she felt I was among those who were called and so desperately needed.
I honestly didn’t know what to say. I didn’t exactly blow her off but I did sortof dismiss the idea. But the idea began, slowwwwwwly, to take root. (A week later it would occur to me that my mother diligently tried to make me a preacher. I guess I had blocked that memory out. And with that in mind, all I could do was laugh at the Universe’s schemings!)
But Shelley did not let it go. She would come up to me every now and then and with that wry smile (if you’ve been around her, I suspect you’ve seen it too) and say, “I’m praying for you” or “have you thought any more about seminary?”
I remember in particular one Sunday she told us in no uncertain terms that we needed to stop walking in parades and start marching again.
She definitely began to pique my inner activist; I was drawn to her and what she had to say and I could not shake the growing desire to join her, to “take the mantle” she was holding out to those of us in our generation. It’s like I couldn’t shake her.
And I’m so glad I couldn’t.
And then there’s DebiSu. Her trademark smile full of sunshine and genuine love has nurtured what has been taking root in my life. She has, on many occasions, provided me with an enormous amount of encouragement, wisdom, and care as I first contemplated this decision, then full-on grappled with it, and now as I have decided to take this step forward in my life and my vocation.
Just last week, Debisu held my hands, looked at me with so much joy and happiness my heart could not help but overflow, and told me of her faith in my ability to do what lies ahead for me and how successful she believed I would be. This came just minutes after I would tell Shelley “this was all her fault” and she said, “well if it is, I’m glad it was.”
These two incredible women: Prophet and Encourager. Have not many of us been warmed by their love and challenged by their words and actions?
I’m not sure where this path will take me but I know without a doubt that I will do the very best to bloom into a life that will honor their legacy and make them proud.
15. & 14. hellraisers