For the past week and one half, I attended clergy conferences and professional development education seminars. The clergy conference was with the New England Diocese of the Anglican Church in North America. The professional development was with the John Jay Institute in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Upon my return, I received the above message in my inbox from the Office of Communications of Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Incorporated.
The clergy conference was quite enlightening. I learned much about the diocese that I function and reside in. It was a little different for me than my colleagues considering that my home diocese is the Diocese of Armed Forces and Chaplaincy. Many of the challenges my colleagues discussed were not applicable to me…at least not 100% of the time. Due to the nature of my vocation as a chaplain, the challenges I confront are different. However, because I do serve in a local parish, the concerns of my colleagues are on my radar.
The professional training at the Institute was beneficial. The class was composed mostly of military chaplains (with one JAG officer, civilian lawyer, activist, hospital chaplain and prison chaplain). Seminars surrounding the philosophy of ethics in both the military and civilian sectors provided fruitful discussion, and more importantly, action steps for all who attended. We also explored much of the religious history of our country from the lens of Pennsylvanian history. We visited many landmarks in Philadelphia. Overall, it was a great experience.
One of the most enlightening experiences was visiting St. Andrew’s Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Philly. The facility is located on a street that was called “a rough neighborhood.” It reminded me of my upbringing! When entering the facility, we were greeted by the priest and his wife. He proceeded to give us a tour of the worship space. It gave me an appreciation for my brother chaplain and priest, Fr. Chris Moody, and his ingenuity for providing a robust service with limited resources in Afghanistan the year before I arrived. However, what transpired after this tour was what was enlightening.
One of my colleagues asked a question regarding the Blessed Virgin Mother. He referred to her simply as “Mary.” The Orthodox Priest responded with “Who?” My colleague repeated. The Orthodox priest then, in a paternalistic manner, stated “The Mother of God…The Mother of God” before answering the question.
Referral of the Blessed Virgin Mother as “Mary” is common for the Evangelical branch of Christianity. This is also the case for the Evangelical branch of Anglicanism. Growing up Baptist, I held a low regard for the BVM. Now, I regard her with the highest esteem. She is indeed the Mother of God. She is not God, but the Mother of God. I took a very simplistic approach to reaching the conclusion of the Blessed Virgin Mother’s importance not only in my life, but the life of the Church.
My mother is, was, and will continue to be an inspiration to me. Outside of God, she, my God-Mom and grandma helped formed me in faith. Without their due diligence, I may not have answered God’s call. If my love and admiration for my mother is this deep, how can I then disregard the Mother of God as simply “Mary.” I would never, call my mom by her first name. In African American cultural, that is the highest sign of disrespect of a child to their parent.
I can not call the BVM, by her first name without recognizing her place as the Blessed Virgin or the Mother of God. We recognize her importance in the Nicene and Apostle’s Creeds. Let’s take the step further and recognize her importance in our everyday speak. With our earthly mothers, let us recognize their importance to us everyday, not just the second Sunday in May.