The United Methodist Church of Enfield
Tuesday, December 01, 2020
Open Hearts. Open Minds. Open Doors.
  

 

 

Together in Christ

A letter from Bishop Devadhar

 

August 1, 2020

 

Beloved in Christ:
 
Greetings in the precious name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

 

One of my great joys this summer, in the midst of COVID-19, is reading a fascinating book by Jane Ives titled They Also Serve: Methodist and United Methodist Bishops' Spouses 1940-2018 (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2020).  It is an inspirational and stimulating book. True to its title, it provides many “aha moments” as Ives shares stories about the gifts and graces of bishops’ spouses and families, as well as of the sacrifices they have made doing ministry and mission in our church. This is not only true of bishops' families; it is also true of clergy spouses and families in our local churches. Many are unaware of the sacrifices these loved ones make for the sake of the ministry and mission of the church. In fact, the majority of clergy spouses are laity; so, in lifting up clergy families, we celebrate the gifts of clergy and laity alike used for the glory of God!  

 

Ives shares a story told by Anne Hearn, wife of Bishop Woody Hearn, about meeting Mother Teresa (now Saint Teresa) during an episcopal visit to India. The words Saint Teresa spoke to the bishop made me pause, think, and rethink! Anne Hearn writes, "... Then Mother Teresa asked us if we would come and work with her sometime, maybe for a week or two or as long as we could. With a twinkle in her eye, she said to Woody, 'Because you are the bishop, you can do the laundry’" (p. 175). 
 
“Because you are the bishop, you can do the laundry." For a few days, I kept repeating this statement to myself. Reliable statistics say the average American spends 17 minutes a day doing laundry. We all know this is using the modern convenience of a washer and dryer. During my visit to the headquarters of Missionaries of Charity in Kolkata, I saw nuns, with smiles on their faces, washing clothes manually; joyfully doing the laundry of lepers and others infected with disease. Yes, they spent more than 17 minutes a day doing the laundry. 

 

In reflecting on Saint Teresa's statement, I reread a paper on Mother Teresa I wrote during my graduate work. I also browsed through other collections and writings about her. In my humble opinion, she was not thinking about laundry in a literal sense, but in a much broader sense, with deeper meaning and implication. As one reads about what people — not just Christians, but people of all faiths, and even those of no faith — have observed about Saint Teresa and witnessed in her ministry, her words were not just about cleaning the dirty laundry of others, but an attempt to bring genuine healing and comfort to those who were dying on the streets of Kolkata. 

 

It was about touching the world of a leper by speaking the truth in love and truth to power, not caring if her audience was a king or queen, a dictator or diplomat. I am sure this is the kind of deeper laundry that she was and is challenging all of us to do.
 

Then I started saying ... 
            “Because you are a baptized Christian, you can do the laundry." 
            “Because you are a Christian youth, you can do the laundry."
            “Because you are a Christian teacher, you can do the laundry."
            “Because you are a Christian medical professional, you can do the laundry."
            "Because you are a bishop, you can do the laundry."
            “Because you are a district superintendent, you can do the laundry."
            “Because you are a pastor, you can do the laundry.

 

What laundry is God calling us to do today, so people may see the power of Christian baptism though our lives? As we reflect on this question, may I draw our attention to a quotation from Augustine of Hippo, (354-430 AD) who said, "For you I am a bishop, but with you I am a Christian. The first is an office accepted; the second is a gift received. One is danger; the other is safety. If I am happier to be redeemed with you than to be placed over you, then I shall, as the Lord commanded, be more fully your servant." 

It is only when all of us — clergy and laity — embrace servant leadership as modeled by Jesus Christ, as articulated by cherished Church parents like Augustine of Hippo, and as embodied by modern-day saints like Saint Teresa, that we can truly make a difference in our communities, nation and world.

When we recognize and celebrate the powerful ways episcopal and clergy spouses and families make critical sacrifices and significant contributions to the mission and ministry of the church, we truly understand servant leadership.

 

May God grant us the courage and the compassion to always be such authentic people of God — the Church — that we become the laundromats for God everywhere, so all can live their lives to their fullest capacity as children of God.

May this be our prayer to our Creator God in and through the precious name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
 
May this be our true passion and action filled with the power of the Holy Spirit!
 
In Christ's love,


Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar