I opened the night with a story about my grandmother’s death in the nursing home and my encounter with her in her last hours, as the only member of her family present. I made it clear to the Committee that it was in the last moments of her life that I was truly ordained. All that was to come was merely “benediction”.
Reverend G was the third person to put a question before me. “Ms. Hopkins, I mean Lee Ann—how do you view resurrection?”
Now to all of you who have church doctrine down or who feel 100% confident with the Christian story, you may have had no trouble with this query. I, on the other hand, have always been full of doubts (which is both blessing and curse—to former congregants, some felt comforted by my questions as I seemed closer to the pews, instead of hovering above in the pulpit; but to others, I seemed an apostate.)
“Reverend, resurrection happens every morning that I get out of bed and put my feet on the floor. Resurrection happens every time I say Yes! to life…Resurrection is saying yes to life.”
In his resonant baritone, he half-laughed, half-amened, “Well, Reverend Hopkins, and I will call you that, sister, I just want to warn you, I’m using that in my next sermon. I’ll give you credit for your words, of course…[then he gleamed and winked] but after that, I’m taking those words as my own!” And he laughed a huge laugh. All gathered followed his lead.
I don’t remember too much after that moment, other than the sweetness of grace and gratitude.
Yesterday, I had a difficult day. I started the morning listening to an NPR story about the more-than-11,000 children who have been killed in the Syrian civil war by the Syrian government. I heard the details of surviving Syrian children themselves who have had bombs explode before their very eyes, lost family members, had their childhoods blown to bits and been the sole supporters of their refuge families selling gum sticks at night on the corner. I turned off the radio. But I couldn’t shake the voices. A hundred more voices filled the radio-free vacuum—those of children in our own inner cities and rural outreaches going to bed hungry, those whose parents were out of work particularly at this festival season, those who have lost family members to gun violence, those who experience abuse by people they should be able to trust, and those ghosts who live on despite being taken too early by deranged gunmen, angry parents or guns left alone and unlocked within their homes.
I made it to the office and I began my day reviewing documents for a case that I believed should have settled long before this time. Neither the plaintiffs nor the defendants needed to be bled any further by the law firms…
I was feeling off balanced and needed a walk to clear my head. I strode out into a warmish Washington afternoon and started down Constitution Avenue in front of the Environmental Protection Agency and one of the Smithsonian buildings. At the end of my gaze was that great architectural beauty, the U.S. Capital—all white in the sunlight. And without any warning, tears began to flow. There was no stopping them. Here I was in the most influential place on the planet, looking up at a building and its members that are bought by the most powerful and wealthy. I felt powerless and empty. The images of all the people I love flowed over me—all the people I’ve been lucky enough to serve in my capacity as a clergywoman, attorney and counselor, all the children—known and unknown that I love as my own, all who suffer—and I fell to my knees right there on Constitution Avenue—the place where suits of power meet everyday citizens. I put my face into my hands and cried.
No one stopped. No one dared to look down.
After a moment, I wiped away the grief and I got back up on my feet determined to do the only thing that I could do. I walked…and walked. Every footfall a prayer. With every step, I felt my energy slowly return. By the time I got back to the office, I was back up to half-speed, instead of a dead stop.
Today, I awoke to the news that I and my colleagues were no longer needed as contract attorneys on the litigation case we’d been diligently working on for over a year. We were told not to report to work.
And so it goes…another opportunity for resurrection. It is my constant companion.
I put my feet into my slippers. I walk to the teapot for my morning ritual and I rise up.
We all rise up. We say yes to life. We all keep walking.