Monday, September 04, 2006
Remembering Ms. Verna
Ms. Verna Dozier, 88, a retired D.C. public school teacher and administrator who became a leading theologian and lay preacher in The Episcopal Church, died September 1 of complications from Parkinson's Disease.
Ms. Verna was a 'fierce' laywoman whose deep commitment to living out of and into our Baptismal Covenant as the only license needed by any Christian to do ministry, helped to shape and form the theology of The Episcopal Church.
She was the author of many books, among them: "Equipping the Saints"(1981), "The Authority of the Laity" (1982), and "The Dream of God: A Call to Return," (1991), in which she argued that religious leaders too often ignore social justice to focus instead on spirituality. "God wants his people to follow Jesus, not worship him," she said.
The Episcopal Church mourns the death of a spiritual giant. Personally, I grieve the loss of a spiritual mentor and soul friend.
My favorite memory of Verna Dozier is the "charge" she gave to Jane Holmes Dixon at her consecration at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.
I'll never forget it.
Ms. Verna, also affectionately described by neophytes to the church as "that little itty bity African-American woman," was in that grand stone pulpit, standing on a box and yet still not quite visible from the congregation.
When it came time for the "consecration charge," she peered up over the microphone and, speaking like the spiritual giant she was said, "Jane Holmes Dixon, stand up."
And, of course, Jane did. Immediately.
She cleared her throat and began, "Every leader in Christian community most often wants one thing," she said, pausing before she continued, "They want desperately to be loved."
The silence was deafening. Everyone in that big cavernous cathedral who knew anything about Christian leadership knew exactly what she was talking about. We held our collective breath waiting for what was coming next.
"Jane Holmes Dixon," said Ms. Verna (but she was speaking to everyone else in the congregation, herself included), "you must find that place in you that wants desperately to be loved . . . and," she slowed down for effect, ". . . let . . .it . . . die."
I could hear myself gasp even over the gasps of recognition all around me.
I'll never forget that moment. Ever.
And, I will forever be grateful for this and all the other many valuable lessons taught (like, if you're going to drink Bourbon, it should be Maker's Mark) by that quintessential Christian teacher, leader, pastor and prophet, Ms. Verna Dozier.
May she rest in peace and rise in glory.