Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Thinking About Mom

This past January 24, I marked my Mother's posthumous 100th birthday. Remembering can bring clarity as to my own expereriences and motivations. For example, in my young adulthood, I was riveted to completing ordination requirements and making a successful life as a United Methodist clergyperson. 

When I first appeared as a Candidate before the District Committee of Ordained Ministry, I overlooked the fact that my parents and especially my Mother, Judy Endress, was a major player in shaping my vocational call. Such Boards were intimidating- and still so. I was pretty sure that Mom's influence wouldn't have impressed that Board. (1) 

"I'm called to ordained ministry because it would especially please Mom." That admission may have been honest but what the Board really wanted to know was whether or not God was calling me. Reflecting back, I now know that it would have been both wise and acurrate to have given more than a tip of the hat to Mom.

Mom had a laser-like focus on her own life-calling as an R.N. Shortly before she finally retired from teaching childbirth classes at age 85, she told me about the time her church celebrated Labor Day. Each child in the 6th grade class processed down the center aisle dressed in their future life's work. Mom was dressed as a Nurse. She reguarlary mentioned to me that we are stewards of God's blessings and I was to use my blessings to help others. She embodied this advice. 

It would be wise because of longetivity. Mom gave me the idea that a vocation could be a  life-long dedication. Putting all my eggs in one basket. And, as studies in faith develpment have shown, one's faith is more enduring if parents take an active part in a young child's spiritualty. Christian faith and spirituality simply has more of an impact decades after childhood. Moreso with moms than dads. 

So it would have been smart to talk about mom's faith- that my call came out of an enduring faith. And if the Board interviewers discounted that, they would have been overlooking one of the main facets of how a lasting call works. (2)

For me, citing mom as a primary influence would have been acurrate and fair. My Grandmother Hacha was mom's guide in forming Mom's Christian faith, as was her mom, Great Grandmother Gabler. The term "black-belt Methodists" would apply to them all. (3) While many mentors, guides, and supporters crossed my path, Mom was one of my steadfast encouragers throughout my long career, from the very beginning,   

A final word on gratitude. Where would I be without these wonderful saints who showed up with their support, humor, and listening ear? What is the truth of my being here in this place and time? I now can see emerging insights about mysef that were not possible then. 

(1) The UMC requires candidates to appear multiple times before Districts and Conference Boards of Ordained Ministry. With both written and interviews, I worked hard to match the expectations of others. Conferences require a triad that conducts sessions to explore questions in order to better know and understand the candidate.

(2) The 2018 Barna study found that 68 percent of U.S. Christians who grew up with someone who influenced their faith say their mother’s faith impacted them. That was followed by the father (46 percent) and a grandparent (37 percent). That pattern also was found among Christian teens, who are more likely to say they have prayed with or talked about God with their mom in the past month than with their father. See also, National Church Life Study "Parents are Role Models for Faith," 2016: "Some 58% of church attenders aged 15 to 29 nominated their mother, and 46% nominated their father as the person who showed them what faith was about."

I am also indebted to my teacher and mentor, John Westerhoff, whose groundbreaking faith development paradigm of Affiliative- Searching- Owned faith can be outlined as 1) the faith of others (childhood) 2) our faith (adolescence-young adult), and 3) my faith (adulthood). See Westerhoff, Will Our Children Have Faith? Morehouse Publishing House, 2012. The classic first appeared in 1976.

(3) The term is borrowed from The Rev. Dr. Jim Jackson.


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