I’ve never owned a red pair of dress shoes before. As a kid, I may have sported some red Jack Purcell or Converse tennis shoes. But… never say never. I am waiting for my new red dress shoes to come in the mail and even more eagerly awaiting the moment when I get to wear them on June 21 at the Ordination Service of the Virginia Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church! Woop-woop!!
Georgia Harkness was one of the pioneer women in the Methodist Church, breaking boundaries of expectations for what was appropriate for women to accomplish within the church in the mid-20th century. She was influential in the movement that led to the 1956 General Conference that granted full clergy rights to women. For Georgia, her grandmother, Abigail’s red coat was a symbol of courage and empowerment. Abigail had been shunned from her Quaker community but was able to wear her coat within the Methodist church where she found a new home. In honor of Georgia’s legacy, many women theologians who have followed in her footsteps have worn red dress shoes, as a symbol of boldness and courage, at seminary commencements and also here in Virginia at ordination. Our own former Bishop Kammerer even carried on this tradition at Annual Conference during her leadership time with us.
I am very aware that as I walk across the stage (in my red shoes) on June 21 to be ordained I am following the footsteps of many who have gone before me, both women and men, who have paved the way that enabled the church to recognize and embrace the role of women as clergy, called by God to ministry. I am also aware of my role to pave the way for those who follow me, specifically my LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters so that they too may be recognized and embraced as people who are also called by God to serve as ordained clergy.
Ordination into the United Methodist Church in 2019 – this year, this time in church history- feels like a leap of faith. Although decisions were made at the General Conference in February of 2019, it seems very clear that the conversation about human sexuality and the church’s response in regard to our church polity is not over. As a Deacon in the UMC, I am called to Word, Service, Compassion, and Justice, and ultimately to be a bridge between the church and the world. Inherent to this call is my continued active participation and leadership in the work of the church to be fully inclusive to all. I believe my red shoes also symbolize the Holy Spirit and the work of God’s Spirit through time that continues to guide and lead the church through change and times of struggle into God’s future. I’m eager to be part of God’s work of love that will ultimately transform our world. Red shoes just about say it all.
Thank you, Bethlehem UMC, for your continued encouragement and support! I feel incredibly blessed to be able to serve alongside you as we work together, fueled by God’s Spirit, for the transformation of the world.