Great Leaders Equip Others for Leadership…
About a year and a half after my teen-age daughter Cassie and I found a church home at Washington Square UMC, we welcomed Bishop Alfred Johnson to lead us in starting a new church community – The Church of the Village. We found an early connection because Bishop J. had been my father’s bishop in the Greater NJ Annual Conference. Bishop J’s passion for justice, faithful leadership, challenging teaching, and gracious affirmation have helped shape me into the person I am today.
Over the past 10 years, Bishop J. has journeyed with me through joy and sorrow, always helping me grow personally and spiritually. Birthdays, funerals, confirmation, weddings, seminary, and in a few weeks my commissioning . . . he has been part of so many life events for our family. And of course in the in between times, he has always been a constant source of inspiration, compassion, and loving joy.
In 2010 during a time of crisis, he prayed with me assuring me that I had the spiritual reserves to carry me through a tragic and challenging time. Two years later when my father died, Bishop J. and Pastor Vicki walked with us through the grief of his death and celebration of his life.
When Chris and I became engaged, Bishop J was among the first people we told and he guided our pre-marital sessions. We were delighted to have him officiate our special day and celebrate with dance and laughter at the reception.
At the Church of the Village, Bishop J. guided Cassie and me into leadership roles, putting faith and trust in us that initially surprised me. I used to be terrified to lead worship – my voice would shake and I would speak very quickly. But Bishop J. gave me space to organize interfaith social justice discussions and peace vigils while encouraging me to grow in denominational positions such as the Lay Member to the New York Annual Conference.
When he invited me to be a Minister of Care, I was honored and somewhat uncertain because at the time, I considered myself to be much more administrative than pastoral. With monthly meetings and training, I began to see how my relationships with people in the church were growing in spiritual ways. This played a key role in helping me identify my own gifts leading to the discernment of my call to ordained ministry.
As I began to explore that call, Bishop J. offered spiritual direction, prayer, and support every step of the way. He gave me space to explore my liturgical and preaching voice. When I am commissioned as a provisional elder in a few weeks, it means so much to me that Bishop J. will lay hands on me as my pastor, mentor, friend, and ministerial authority to affirm my call to ministry.
Thank you so much Bishop J.! Words cannot express how much I love you and value your role in my life. As you move to a new community, my prayers go with you. I know that you will continue to transform lives with your wisdom and grace.
Editor’s Note: This is part of a series of stories from parishioners and others about about Bishop Alfred Johnson or Bishop J as we affectionately call him. You are invited to share stories of the first time you met him, or perhaps something that Bishop J did or said that was important, life-changing, or hilarious to you. Whether you express your story in a few sentences, a haiku, or a page (No more than a page, please!), we want to read it! Between now and June 7, we are collecting stories honoring Bishop J’s ministry among us. To submit, please send your story to our Bishop J Story Editor, Selby Ewing.