Bailey Edwards Nelson: Gold Dust Woman, an Ordinary Saint

[Moderator’s Note: This summer, during “Ordinary Time” in the church calendar, our writers are sharing about the “Ordinary Saints” God has used to speak to and shape them.]

“Rock on, gold dust woman…” And then she started to spin. The metallic glint of her shawl catching the spot light, seemingly sending that gold dust spiraling out onto her audience and into the universe. I was hooked.

Stevie Nicks, an ordinary saint, at least for me. Prophet of feminine power and beauty; preacher of rock n’ roll and mysticism; and pastor to spirits freed from the constraints of expectation, limitation and fear.

As we enter “ordinary time” in the liturgical calendar, we may pause and consider those people, places or experiences that have crept into the ordinary moments of our lives and made way for the extraordinary.

I have never met this legend of rock, but to listen to her raspy whispers or see her spin in great abandon is to know her. For years she has shared my living space. Riding in the car with me, a teenager with a newly minted driver’s license, as “Stand Back” threatened to blow out the speakers out of my old Mitsubishi Eclipse. Standing on stage with me, a gutsy girl out for karaoke night, as “Gold Dust Woman” growled in the microphone. Sitting in the dark with me, a heart-broken chaplain resident weary of death, as “Landslide” mixed with the flow of tears. Waiting with me, a called preacher woman, as “Rhiannon” gave wings to one ready to take flight.

A singer and musician myself, her songs have always been something I could actually get my voice around. They were filled with notes that seemed tailored to my low register and celebrated that bit of growl that loved to appear in a moment of passion. It didn’t take me long, however, to realize that what I felt for her music was more than an appreciation for the presence of rockin’ alto repertoire. She, and her music, was gifting me something much more valuable.

Stevie was allowing me the space to learn things about myself that other people and parts of my life would have preferred remain hidden. Her music was encouraging me to value difference–in myself and others. She was pushing me to entertain my spiritual side, hunkering down in the still places of my soul.

Stevie was teaching me that a low and loud voice on a woman was a beautiful thing, and that it just might come in handy when speaking truth. Her presence was urging me to try being soft, as well as strong, as each are equally feminine. She was showing me what it looks like to break promises and hearts, and how life and music go on.

But most of all, this ageless, shimmering songstress was teaching me to dance. She was inviting me to lean into the moments that call for passionate, wild twirling, no matter how strange it may seem. Showing me that these are the moments- where the music builds and your voice is haunting and your body is spinning- that produce the best songs. They tell a story with an authenticity and vulnerability that musicians dream of and ministers pray for.

You are a beautiful, strong, mysterious, flawed and fearless creation, she seemed to say. Come and fly, come and dance, sing your story and see what can happen. Yes, Stevie Nicks, sings me to life.

“All your life you’ve never seen a woman, taken by the sky…”           
-“Rhiannon” Stevie Nicks

 

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Bailey on the way to see her ordinary saint, Stevie Nicks, live on stage.

Rev. Bailey Edwards Nelson has served on the pastoral staff of congregations throughout the southeast, most recently as Senior Pastor of congregation in North Carolina. She is a graduate of McAfee School of Theology and Furman University. Bailey holds a deep love for preaching and the creative arts.

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