I had a fascinating week of ecumenism in Nampa, beginning May 3 with the annual Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast and ending with the last (we take a summer break) monthly Nampa Ministerial Meeting at St. Alphonsos Hospital May 8. Here is what I know. For me to continue showing up at ecumenical events in my adopted city I need only one, but there must be at least one, of the following: shared ministry, relationships, or gender equity.
I attended the Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast this year primarily because of the speaker. Several of my friends are on faculty at Northwest Nazarene University and I thought it would be interesting to hear President Joel Pearsall give the keynote address. There was an invocation, a benediction, and perhaps six prayers for things ranging from stewardship to youth and families. I have been the token woman prayer in the past. This year again, one woman was on the stage to pray. I knew only a few of the people at my breakfast table and around the room. After seven years I still feel like an outsider at this event. Yes, prayer is ministry but none of the prayers made me feel more united with those gathered.
The Installation of Deacon Diane McGeoch on the afternoon of May 5 was intimate but fabulous. Rev. Karen Hunter, Grace Episcopal, gave a wonderful sermon in which she tied together the history of deacons (ministers of Word and Service), the past and future of Learning Peace: A Camp for Kids, and the Holy Spirit calling Diane to this position. Local Methodist and United Church of Christ friends were on hand to present gifts. Lutheran colleagues drove from Boise, Mountain Home, and Star to read, sing, serve food, and support Diane. So men and women both had roles. I have relationship with nearly everyone who participated. We clearly have a joint ministry–Learning Peace: A Camp for Kids.
This was the third time we took a tour and blessed a variety of Nampa Community Gardens. Sunday afternoon, we started at Trinity’s home garden and then proceeded to the Seventh Day Adventist Garden, Nampa First United Methodist Garden, Trinity’s second plot (named after the Saint of Gardening–Saint Phocas), the R3 Recovery Garden, and finally Grace Episcopal’s garden. Karen and I took turns leading the litany. We heard wonderful stories about God working through various ministries to draw people together, heal broken hearts, and of course to feed hungry bellies.
I had just mentioned to someone that occasionally I am the only woman at the Nampa Ministerial monthly luncheons and often I am the only clergy woman. Last week an LDS woman came and three women representing Nampa schools were present to give an update on the Tuesday night community meal the Ministerial helps provide. Though lacking in gender equity, I have known many of the people in the Nampa Ministerial for seven years. We have relationships and care about one another. Someone’s denomination is going through turmoil. A retiree is recovering from surgery. Someone else and I discussed how to train and nurture young people who are continually searching for the next best thing. Even without our shared ministries (in addition to the meal, we discussed the baccalaureate we sponsor) the relationships will keep me coming back to this group. I care deeply about ecumenical partnerships and have written about here before. There is so much more we can do together than we can alone. I give thanks for Learning Peace, the network of Nampa community gardens, and my relationships with colleagues through the Nampa Ministerial.
I am so glad that Nampa Ministerial “feels like community” because I truly believe that, until we begin to sense a mutual connection with each other, it’s nearly impossible for God’s work (or any good work) to occur. The prayer breakfast sounds painful! And patriarchal, unfortunately.