From the District Superintendent

Final Reflections

Posted 29 June, 2020 by Rev. Kathleen Overby Webster

Please enjoy the Celebration of Ministry, from the Roanoke District Committee on Superintendency, for Rev. Kathleen Overby Webster, which aired on June 28, 2020 at this LINK on Facebook or this LINK on Youtube.   

June 16, 2020  - The overcast skies this morning match the bitter-sweet feeling in my spirit. We have known for several months that the Virginia Annual Conference would not be meeting this week. But still my calendar shows that today "load-in" would have begun at the Berglund Center if all had gone as originally planned. I will miss seeing the many volunteers who make such events come to life. And I will miss greeting the thousands of Virginia United Methodists on your behalf. I thank you for the hospitality and welcome you would have extended. 

Endings and beginnings always have some bitter-sweetness I think. That's probably why packing books and mementos, files and photos, takes so much longer than anticipated, at least for me! Holding these items in my hand blends past, and present, and future ... memories, tangible reminders, and hope.

A long-dormant memory has surfaced over the last several days. The event occurred at Duke Medical Center during my last year in seminary, when I was an on-call chaplain while in the Clinical Pastoral Education Program. I had been paged to attend a family as they surrounded their dying loved one. I remember easing the door to the room open and realizing it was filled with family members. I quietly introduced myself and as I finished speaking clearly heard someone across the room whisper to another, 

'if we wait long enough they'll send someone else." Honestly, I would have hoped that too.  I felt too young, too white, too mainline-Protestant, too female to adequately serve them. But I knew that no one else would appear. Somehow, we were going to have to manage to bridge the readily apparent differences between us: differences of ethnicity, race, religious expression, religious belief, lived experiences, unnamed privilege, and unmet expectations.

Even today, in the midst of our nation's raw pain and insidious racism  it is tempting to long for someone else ... someone else to address it, someone else to deal with it, someone else to "to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God" (Micah 6:8). But there is no one else but you, no one else but me, no one else but us. We are the ones God is calling to enter into authentic conversations about race and reconciliation in the all places and with all the people we daily encounter. We are the ones God is calling to move beyond words into actions, practices, and policies that transform our families, congregations, and communities. 

Looking back I can't recall all the details of that encounter in Durham. But I know that tears and prayer were part of it. We don't have to know all the details of what comes next either. But tears and prayers will be part of it as God works for justice and peace in us and through us.

In the hope and power of Christ,

Kathleen