Chosen Family

This is the picture of my ordination on June 12, 2011.  It is a day I will never forget.  I was not sure what to expect of the day, for so many of those who walked with me from the beginning of my journey were places far away.  Some were able to make it and some were not.  Yet, the day was more special than I could have ever imagined, for reasons I never would have guessed.  Two days before the Pastor I worked under at Wells United Methodist Church in Jackson, Keith Tonkel, called to tell me that his wife Pat Tonkel had died.  She had been suffering with a brain tumor for some time and had not been doing well.  Keith was the pastor I had chosen to stand with me during my ordination.  I shared with him I could invite another pastor if he was unable.  He assured me he would be there, but I wondered if that was where he should be.  I had another pastor ready just in case, but as the clergy were all lining up to prepare to walk out for the service…Keith walked in.

I am not sure who started the singing, but all of the clergy gathered in the rehearsal hall began singing “It is well with my soul.”  I will never forget that moment.  I walked up to Keith and stood with him tears streaming down my face.  He was looking around at all the people he had walked with over the years with a radiance upon his face I did not expect.  I wondered whether or not Keith needed to be at my ordination, but he did need to be there.  He needed that moment with the Pastors who were a big part of his life over the years and I needed that moment to remember what he taught me about “chosen family.”

Keith often spoke of “Chosen Family” at Wells.  We might not have a choice over our biological families, but we do indeed have choice over the family we choose to step into and embrace as a part of our Christian Faith.   Jesus talks a bit about this sort of family experience.  Mary comes to find him one day and those around him alert him that his mother is near looking for him.  Jesus shares that his family members are those who choose to do God’s will.  I am sure those around him were quite perplexed, but at the same time enthralled by this understanding that if they choose to do God’s will they are swept up into the divine embrace of God’s chosen family.

The week before my commissioning service three years ago, I was in North Carolina attending a Peace Conference that a mentor and dear friend of mine was speaking at, Peter Storey.  I shared with him the challenges and the blessings of my ministry and he listened intently.  Before we parted ways, he leaned down and kissed me on my forehead.  He shared with me that he was very proud of me.  Peter Storey has seen days more difficult than mine.  Yet, I will never forget that kiss on my forehead.  I touched my hand to my forehead before I was commissioned three years ago and again on the day of my ordination June 12th calling to mind the many people who make up my chosen family.  You are the people who help to keep me on the path of the faithful followers of God.

Know that I am so thankful to be with all of you on this journey–whether we are near one another or far apart!

%d bloggers like this: