I have a special place in my heart for Rev. Ilene Brenner Dunn. Ilene is one of the wonderful people who tried to get the Presbyterian Church (USA) to ordain out gay clergy back when such a stance was a minority position. On a fall morning ten years ago, Ilene became one of my guardian angels and spiritual mentors in a very personal way. Mission Presbytery had gathered and, among other business, was scheduled to vote on whether I would be approved as a “Candidate for Ministry,” a final step before ordination. The tension was high, the chance of my being approved was low, and the whole process (meaning the several years process, not just the vote) was taking a toll.
On that morning, I sat at a breakfast table at Mo-Ranch with Ilene and a few others. We were sharing last minute thoughts and strategies about the upcoming “interview” and vote. As the others drifted away, Ilene and I sat alone at the table.
“I didn’t want all of this,” I admitted to Ilene. “All I wanted was to be a pastor. I just feel I’ve been called to be a Presbyterian pastor.”
“You are definitely called to be a Presbyterian pastor,” Ilene said. “But it might be just for this one day.”
I won’t try to explain all the ways she was right. Neither will I try to explain all the ways her words have encouraged and inspired me over the years. But often, in the most difficult times, I remember her words and I get through. I can be a pastor for this day. I may fail tomorrow, but no matter. Today is quite enough.
Yesterday, in response to the Manchester terror attack, Ilene wrote the words below. Once again I find her words so wise and moving that I wanted to share them with you. Maybe you can pass them along and somehow they will find their way to the people who most need to read them.
Love and Blessings,
A certain Republican politician said today, “I cannot get the face of that eight-year-old out of my mind. “
That’s a good thing, sir. Yes, it’s painful to keep seeing the face of an innocent little girl who’ll never grow up, who just minutes before was having so much fun at a concert, till terrorism brought her death. It is painful to keep seeing her face, but sir, that continued willingness to keep on painfully seeing says something good about you, something positive about your character and about your capacity to experience compassion.
Now, sir, consider this: Will you see the faces of thousands of eight year-olds right here in the United States, hundreds of thousands actually, their faces and the faces of their parents, as all of them lose the help they need through food programs, and as all of them lose the medical insurance they need to be healthy? Will you see their faces as they grow gaunt from malnourishment, as they grow weak from untreated diseases, as little coffins are lowered into the ground?
About that budget you and your Republican colleagues are proposing, sir, and about that medical program you and they are touting: will you choose to serve the very, very wealthy, relishing the financial gifts you receive from them, relishing also their promise to vouchsafe your position and power? Will you give them the huge tax breaks they want but which will effectively rob the poor?
What about the faces of those eight-year-olds, sir? What about the state of your character and the health of your soul? Rev. Ilene Brenner Dunn