Verna Dozier

/ 6 September 2006

Thanks to Jane Redmont for alerting me to the news that Verna Dozier, an extraordinarily gifted Episcopal religious educator/theologian has left this world for the next one. Jane pointed to this blog by an Episcopal priest who remembered Ms. Dozier’s pointed advice (it’s worth repeating at length, because the story is so powerful):

"Ms. Verna, also affectionately described by neophytes to the church as "that little itty bity African-American woman," was in that grand stone pulpit, standing on a box and yet still not quite visible from the congregation.

When it came time for the "consecration charge," she peered up over the microphone and, speaking like the spiritual giant she was said, "Jane Holmes Dixon, stand up."

And, of course, Jane did. Immediately.

She cleared her throat and began, "Every leader in Christian community most often wants one thing," she said, pausing before she continued, "They want desperately to be loved."

The silence was deafening. Everyone in that big cavernous cathedral who knew anything about Christian leadership knew exactly what she was talking about. We held our collective breath waiting for what was coming next.

"Jane Holmes Dixon," said Ms. Verna (but she was speaking to everyone else in the congregation, herself included), "you must find that place in you that wants desperately to be loved . . . and," she slowed down for effect, ". . . let . . .it . . . die."

I could hear myself gasp even over the gasps of recognition all around me.

I'll never forget that moment. Ever."

I'd probably add that that kind of letting go, that kind of kenosis, leads to an explosion of compassion and love that returns a thousandfold. Such is the grace of God.