Saturday, June 08, 2002
Episcopal priest gets the 'call'
The offertory was just beginning when the cell phone rang.
As hundreds of people recited the liturgy a week ago at Christ Church Cathedral in downtown Cincinnati, the Rev. Paula Jackson slipped from the last pew and into the narthex.
The call could mean leaving Cincinnati for Massachusetts, leaving her post as priest of a small Episcopal congregation in Mount Auburn to serve as a bishop of one of the largest dioceses in the United States.
Officially the process began last September, when the Rev. Ms. Jackson was among 90 or so people nominated for the position of bishop suffragan, one of two assistants to the diocesan bishop. But the journey dates to two decades ago when the Rev. Ms. Jackson left the denomination of her childhood Southern Baptist for the Episcopal church.
Ordained as a priest in 1986, she has served at Church of Our Savior in Mount Auburn since 1990. On a good Sunday, 80 people sit in the pews or on a blanket in the back of the church with wriggly toddlers.
Despite its size, the congregation is well known for its commitment to social justice issues. The church advocates for the inclusion of gays and lesbians in church leadership and is working on a new ministry of reaching out to the Hispanic community.
Already English and Spanish greet callers who reach the answering machine at the home of the Rev. Ms. Jackson, her husband, the Rev. Daniel Watson, a Presbyterian minister, and their three children.
I told the congregation, "Your rector could be Jesus and if he served in a lackluster parish for 12 years, nobody would be interested, says the Rev. Ms. Jackson, 49. Her selection as a bishop candidate is a tribute to the intensity and constancy of (the members') commitment to inclusiveness and justice. ... It's a powerful community, way beyond what you would expect from just looking at numbers.
Clergy and lay delegates from the more than 90 congregations in the Massachusetts diocese on June 1 voted for their next bishop from a slate of five candidates.
On the second ballot, the Rev. Ms. Jackson came in second, behind the Rev. Gayle Harris, a priest serving an urban congregation in Rochester, N.Y..
Gayle Harris is a powerful, credible leader. She's just what our church needs, not only in Massachusetts but in the worldwide church, says the Rev. Ms. Jackson. To come in second to her is really an honor.
The vote was a relief in some ways, says the Rev. Ms. Jackson.
She had dreaded saying goodbye to her flock and was eager to continue the Hispanic ministry, a lifelong dream. She plans to take some intensive conversational Spanish classes this summer.
I can read heavy-duty theology, but I can't talk with someone at the bus station, she says. I'm always having to say, "Mas lentamente por favor (Speak more slowly, please).'
Calling all Billy Graham fans.
With the Greater Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky Billy Graham Mission only three weeks away, we're asking readers for their memories of the evangelist.
E-mail them to email@example.com; write to Graham Memories, 7700 Service Center Drive, West Chester, Ohio, 45069; Fax 755-4150.
For more religion listings, check out www.enquirer.com, keyword: events.
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