Tag Archives: motherhood and ministry

LeAnn Gardner: Ordinary Miracles: A View from Charleston

Just about two months ago, the unthinkable happened in my city. A young man entered a church, sat in a Bible study and unleashed bullet after bullet, killing nine church members. There were also survivors, including a child, who witnessed the terror unfold. What happened a few days later might even be more incomprehensible: the families of those victims forgave that killer. If you want to go to church, watch the bond hearing here.


In the moments, days, week and now months that have followed, I have tried to be open to all the experience is teaching me. Here are a few things I’ve learned:

  • Evil and hate exist. You may be thinking, “Of course it still exists.” But when evil comes to your doorstep, its face looks even more sinister. Until June 17, I watched from afar other mass shootings. This atrocity reminded me that we live in a world full of evil, but what came after the shooting, the way my beautiful city responded did not let that evil win out. More on that later.
  • Symbols aren’t everything, but they are something. The Confederate flag conversation began almost immediately after the shootings. I heard people remark that it was “tacky” and “disrespectful” to talk about the flag before the victims were even buried. My thoughts on this were very different. One of the victims, Reverend Senator Clementa Pinckney fought to have this flag removed before his death (and mandatory body cameras on police officers as a result of the Walter Scott tragedy which occurred about 2 months prior to the shooting; you can read more about that here). The thought of Sen. Pinckney’s viewing at the state house occurring while the flag was still up was sickeningly ironic. (officials did cover a window in the state house so it couldn’t be seen). The Confederate flag has become a symbol of hate. You can argue what its roots were, that its meaning has been co-opted by racists, that “the flag didn’t climb down off the flagpole and kill those people”, etc. The bottom line for me as a person of faith is if my brother and sister are offended by this flag, if they have a visceral response to it when they see it, if they remember their forefathers and foremothers being wrapped in it after being killed by the KKK, then it needs to come down. This is not only civil, or polite, but CHRISTLIKE. People before symbols. IMG_5048
  • Policies aren’t everything, but they are something. Gun control. Mental health services. Something needs to happen. We can no longer pretend that our love affair with guns is a healthy one.
  • Reconciliation and peacemaking is holy work. We are all called to this. What does this mean exactly? For my friends Bill Stanfield and Evelyn Oliveira, it means living among the people they are serving at Metanoia. But what about for me? For you? Will this tragedy be a passing atrocity that I allowed to change me for a short amount of time, or will it transform my worldview, and thus my actions? Tragedy, especially at your front door, fosters self-reflection, but my prayer for myself, my family and our community as a whole is that it will truly change the very fiber of who we are.
  • Forgiveness is a choice. When the families offered the gift of forgiveness just days after the massacre, I was talking to an African American colleague who grew up in the Civil Rights era. I asked her, “How can these families give forgiveness so quickly?” She said, “You say it with your mouth. You lean into it. You say it so that the action will follow so that not one seed of hate has room to grow.” It was then that I realized that even the act of forgiveness is different for my African American brothers and sisters. My white privilege allows me to fester, to be angry, to harbor resentment and grudge. For my colleague, for the families, their history of oppression has not afforded them that luxury.
  • Not talking to your children about race sends a message. Although my children are very young and cannot grasp what happened that fateful Wednesday night, fear overcame me. The thought that we are raising children in a world where churches and schools are no longer safe terrifies me. So what would I tell them if they were older? I hope that we could have open conversations about our own biases (we all have them) and that to voice and recognize them is the beginning of change. I hope that we will teach them that there are privileges that automatically come with having white skin and their job is to be aware of this and to listen to their friends of color to really hear others’ experiences. Whereas I will converse with my two boys about white privilege, their African American friends’ mothers will talk about the danger of wearing hoodies and the assumptions that police officers may make because of the color of their skin. Even if these conversations are awkward, they need to happen. Silence sends another message: it isn’t important, we are too uncomfortable to talk about these things, and worst of all, we don’t care.
  • Love wins….every single time. I cannot say enough about how my beloved hometown reacted to the tragedy that occurred. Dylann Roof allegedly said he killed those kind souls to “start a race riot.” That, most certainly, did not happen. The Sunday after the shootings, an expected crowd of 5,000 walked our city’s most visible icon, the Ravenel Bridge. Estimates are that upwards of 10-15,000 showed up, including some of the children of the victims. Love wins. IMG_4956 As the victims were being buried, there were rumors swirling that Westboro “Baptist” Church would be coming to picket: another attempt to smear our city with hate. Instead, a grassroots Facebook movement emerged of volunteers to be “human shields” so that families could grieve peacefully. One of those volunteers held up a “Love Wins” sign as Jennifer Pickney, Clementa Pickney’s widow, exited the church. Mrs. Pinckney hugged the volunteer and whispered into her ear “every single time.” IMG_5091

Dylann Roof told someone that he almost didn’t go through with the killings because the Bible study participants were “so nice” to him. What he experienced, before killing them, was the love of Christ. That love continued at his bond hearing when the victims’ families pled for his soul and offered words of forgiveness. This is the lavish grace of Christ, fleshed out in a courtroom. My prayer is that their hard decision of forgiving the person who killed their loved ones is not in vain; that their example will continue to inspire my city known for its beauty, and now for its soul. Love wins…..every single time.


LeAnn Gardner is a right brained social worker and minister married to a left brained engineer. Together they (sometimes) compose a full brain. She is mother to two boys, ages 3 1/2 and 1 year.

Meredith Stone: Ordinary Miracles: Kinsey Finds a Hero


Whether we are at a theme park, Chuck-E-Cheese, a local play, or university football game, my seven-year-old daughter, Kinsey, loves to meet the “characters.” Although she can’t sit still for more than five minutes, she will happily wait in line for half an hour to take a picture with Bugs Bunny–even if she has never seen a Bugs cartoon. She always wants to hang around after an event and meet the actors who starred in the play or the costumed mascot at the end of a game. Kinsey just has an affinity for characters.

Last week my husband and I brought both our daughters to Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s General Assembly in Dallas. We began our week at Baptist Women in Ministry’s annual worship service. Squirming Kinsey sat on my lap as the service began. After a few minutes, Pam Durso introduced a young woman who would be supported by the BWIM’s Carolyn Weatherford Crumpler missions fund. As the young woman got up to speak, I whispered in Kinsey’s ear, “Shh. Please be quiet right now. This is mom’s friend Lauren Brewer Bass and I want to hear what she says.” Kinsey quieted down and listened carefully . . .  and then proceeded to continue fidgeting once Lauren was done.

Later at BWIM’s luncheon Kinsey heard Pam say that Lauren had written a book and would be signing copies after the lunch. On her way out, Kinsey quietly made a note of how neat it looked for people to stand in line and have Lauren sign their books.

When we arrived at the headquarters hotel just hours later, Kinsey spotted a banner with Lauren’s picture on it and shouted, “Hey, look! It’s Lauren Brewer Bass!” Then, Kinsey heard my husband and I talk about how Lauren and her husband, David, would be commissioned as field personnel during the Wednesday evening worship service.

As we prepared to go to dinner Wednesday evening, out of the blue Kinsey proclaimed as if it had been churning in her little head all day, “I want to be like Lauren Brewer Bass when I grow up! I want to write books and sign books and have my picture on banners. Will you read Lauren’s book to me once we get home?”

Kinsey had found a hero, a character. For the next forty-eight hours I heard the name “Lauren Brewer Bass” over and over. Once Kinsey realized that Lauren was moving to Cambodia to be a missionary she was a little concerned that she wouldn’t be able to see Lauren much, but she still chanted her name, “Lau-ren, Lau-ren, Lau-ren,” as we waited in line to get a picture with Lauren at Smyth & Helwys’ book signing on Thursday night.

I am so grateful to be a part of a fellowship that has characters like Lauren Brewer Bass. Baptist Women in Ministry and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship are places where a seven-year-old girl can find heroes who write books, sign books, have their pictures on banners, and even go to Cambodia to share God’s grace and hope.

You can buy Lauren’s book, Five Hundred Miles: Reflections on Calling and Pilgrimage from Smyth & Helwys, HERE, or learn more about Lauren and David’s work on their BLOG.  My family will be supporting Lauren and David in their ministry, and I will keep Kinsey updated on all things “Lauren” in the years ahead. You also can give to support Lauren and David as well as other CBF field personnel HERE so that little girls and boys around the world can find characters and heroes worth standing in line for and chanting about.

This post originally appeared on the BWIM blog at http://bwim.info/wednesday-words/kinsey-finds-a-hero-by-meredith-stone1/

Meredith at 2012 WIM conf

Meredith Stone is director of ministry guidance and instructor of Christian ministry and scripture, Hardin-Simmons University, Abilene, Texas.

Starlette McNeill: Ordinary Miracles: “He Speaks”

We knew that it was coming. This was the reason why we had begun reading to our son John in the womb.

McNeill 22

He had a bookshelf and a personal library before he could hold up his head, much less turn a page. I purchased flash cards before he could walk. I asked people to talk to him using real words. No baby talk.

So, that last one might have been a bit of overkill but I was serious. OK. Full disclosure. I still am.

Words are important to me. I know how powerful they are. So when I took my then three month-old son to daycare after returning to work, I would say all of the good words that I could think of.

“You are an intelligent man, a righteous man, a kind and compassionate man, an honest man, a faithful man, a gentleman.” I wanted him to know how much I loved him and believed in him. I shared how proud I was to be his mother and how thankful I was to have him as a son.

Some would argue that he couldn’t have understood what I was saying, that it was a waste of time. But the affirmations continue.

And while at the park one day, I overheard my now two year-old son introducing himself to a new friend by pointing to himself and saying, “Hi. I genius.” He told his teacher, Miss Heather, the same thing and she now calls him “Genius John.”

Yes, I told him that he was a genius. But now he speaks for himself.

His first word was mama. I jumped out of bed when I heard it. I knew that it was coming. Every child says it unless deformity or disability prevents it. It is predictable and to be expected.

Still, It was no less a miracle for me. I had been speaking to him and now he speaks to me. I was speaking for him and now he speaks for himself.

It was a holy moment. Selah.

But, not only do I have a speaking son but I am in relationship with the speaking God, the Word-God. Sure, we know that God has spoken, that God has messengers. We have a personal library, sixty-six books to prove it.

But, we are quite surprised when He speaks—present tense—and more so, when God speaks to us directly. God doesn’t call me “Mama” though.

When the God that we have been speaking to speaks back to us, we might just jump out of bed like I did when my son said his first word. It is in these moments that we become aware that we are living epistles, that God is not only talking to us but writing on us, that we are being touched by the finger of God and becoming Word-people.

I knew that God’s word was coming but I might have only been prepared for baby talk, not the pure and righteous words that He spoke over me.

“You are a blessed woman, a highly favored woman, a holy woman, a called woman, a priestly woman.”

I am discovering more and more that it is in God’s speaking that I am revealed. Like my relationship with my son, what God says about me discloses who I am. So, I only repeat after God in my introductions, confident that He speaks for me.


Reverend Starlette McNeill serves as the Associate Pastor at Village Baptist Church in Bowie, Maryland. She is a wife, a lover of reading, writing and Starbucks and the mother of one amazing son, John.

Leah Grundset Davis: In the Interim

I finished up my second semester of doctoral work in the Doctor of Ministry program at Candler School of Theology a few weeks ago. I jokingly made a Facebook posting that I wondered what I would do with all my free time and noted— “oh right, I’ll have a baby in a few weeks.”

It’s true that these few interim weeks between finishing school and welcoming our second daughter into the world offer brief glimpses into restful, quieter summer days. I’m savoring them because I know they do not come all too often.

The pace continues at work and I’m still chasing around a very busy almost-two-year-old, but without school thrown in the mix, I’ve had a few mornings where I can breathe deeper, a few afternoons where I can linger on my afternoon walk and even a few evenings, where I’ve (gasp!) read for pleasure without the impending deadline of a paper or a book to read for class hanging over my head.

It’s odd to consider not being in the pulpit again until the beginning of October. When my mind would normally be swirling with thoughts of Pentecost and summer lectionary texts, I instead find myself remembering, “oh yes, we need to put together that crib” and “where DID I put all of my older daughter’s clothes?”

The slowing down that comes for some ministers in the summer is like a breath of fresh air. (I know if you work with youth or children or have a busy summer schedule, then summer is not a slowing down, but a ramping up). I’m considering as I slow down, both intentionally and because I’m starting to waddle, ever-so-gracefully, where God might be new to me these days.

Where might I see the holy in the ordinary once the Spirit rushes in on Pentecost? Where might the Incarnation be real and tangible and how might I live that out because I have a few extra moments to inhale?

I know the busyness we all encounter hits at different moments throughout the year for all of us and it will be real again for me in about eight weeks when we welcome another child and then again when I return to work and school six weeks after that.

But I think I’ll linger in this space until then and claim it for what it is—a surpising gift.

leah grundset davis

Rev. Leah Grundset Davis is the communications specialist at the Alliance of Baptists and a member at Ravensworth Baptist Church, Annandale, Va. She lives in Northern Virginia with her husband John, daughter Lydia, Moses the dog and is looking forward to welcoming second daughter in mid-July.