The past 12 months have been extremely difficult. Not just within the church, but personally as well. I lost a very dear friend and mentor, Rev. Mother Lynn “Boots” Boyce. Mother Boyce taught me a lot about life in general.
You see, I grew up in a very conservative Roman Catholic family. I lived most of my life sheltered. In fact, from about the time I was eight years old until I was almost 16, we did not have a television in our home because it “gave the devil a foothold.” We were allowed to listen to the radio as long as it was tuned to the local Christian radio station. (It was certainly not the best Christian radio station in the world, but it wasn’t the worst either.)
Just moving to South Carolina in and of itself was a huge test of my wings. My family, my wife’s family, and many of our friends believe that we had lost our minds. I had never traveled more than a few hundred miles from my home my entire life. I had never stayed away from my hometown more than a couple days in my entire life. Now I was moving 539 miles away from everyone I knew, for my entire family, from any support network we had, to come to an area sight unseen. We did not even know with the apartment we be moving into looked like. All that had been arranged by the only person we knew here, Bishop John Parker, JR.
It was through Bishop Parker that we came to know Mother Boyce. Mother Boyce was an interesting individual. She was rather tall, well fed and extremely strong-willed. And let us not forget highly opinionated and hardheaded. I cannot tell you the number of times we squabbled over politics, the economy, the news, or religion and philosophy. At the end of the day, no matter how much we fought, we were still friends… Nay, we were family.
She taught me to live life to its fullest. She did not understand the concept that she couldn’t do something. When they said that she could not be a female police officer, she decided to prove them wrong, and she did. When they said she couldn’t be a female cabdriver, she laughed and did it anyway. Even when she had no money, nowhere to live, and nothing to eat, she lived in her Jeep, fished every day for food and still managed to put herself through college to become a nuclear engineer.
She taught me while the greatest lessons anyone had ever taught me. She taught me to get in the car and drive, that there was never a place where you could get so lost that you cannot find your way back home. Having been sheltered most of my life, traveling caused a certain amount of anxiety. I have no doubts that most of that anxiety was due to that primal fear of getting lost, starving, freezing to death, you name it. She helped me to overcome my fear of mountains by driving me up and down them repeatedly to show that I wouldn’t fall off the side of them.
This may seem funny to you, but to me as a sheltered young man these fears seemed rational. However I would’ve never learned any of this if I had not made the choice to jump off the cliff. Bishop Parker used to tell me two things: 1) trust in God is never an option, and 2) if we don’t jump off the cliff we will never learn that God’s hands are there to catch us. February 1, 2015 marks 12 years since I got behind the wheel of a Budget rental truck and pointed it southward. We had only decided five days earlier to move here.
I will not lie, it was a difficult decision. The first three months we were here, we faced daily the fear of failure. In fact, we had gotten down to the last few dollars we had to our name and we knew we only had a week left before rent was due again, and we still had no income. The first of that last week, the phone rang and God provided a job, a job making twice what we made in Kentucky. The rest, as they say, is history.
The choice to follow Christ without reservation is a difficult one. If it were easy, everyone could do it. But Christ tells us in Scripture that the way is narrow that leads to salvation and few travel it.
We are not called to be perfect, we are called to serve. We are called to say yes. We are called to try. We will not succeed all the time. In fact, there may be days, weeks, months or even years that we feel are complete and utter failures.
What matters in the long run is that we continue to get up, that we continue to get on the horse, that we not give up but that we continue to try.
In the ISM, we face day in and day out people who would like nothing more than to see us disappear. And those are just our friends! Many clergy in the ISM spent all of their time seeing who they can attack now. There are plenty of people who bounce from jurisdiction to jurisdiction looking for validation, looking for recognition, rather than spending their time serving the people of God. This must stop!
So we have a choice, we can continue as things always have been, continue the bickering, continue seeking validation from those groups or people who will never acknowledge us; or, we can try something new. We can try to work together. Not try to hostilely take over each other’s Churches, not try to force every jurisdiction to do things the exact same way, and not allow our pride and ego to stand in the way of true unity.
To all the bishops reading this: our clergy look to us to set an example. True unity will only come from the ground up. It does not come from the top down. But if our clergy do not know that they have their bishop’s permission to work together with others, many of them will not work the each other. There are plenty of areas where there are multiple ISM parishes all with a handful of people meeting. Why are we wasting these resources? Rather than each of us meeting separately with our handful of people, trying to find places to meet and trying to raise the money to use those facilities, why not combine our efforts and share the work, and the burden.
If we begin working together on that level, it will radically change the public’s perception of our movement and will lead to growth. I stand ready to work with any of you. If you are willing to work to build up the kingdom of God, if you are committed to protecting the people of God, if you are committed to bringing Christ to the people, then I am willing to work with you.
This is the way we can exemplify the message of Mother Boyce’s life. Because we have all been told that the ISM is going nowhere, that we cannot make a difference that we are too insignificant to help anyone, and we have believed it. It is time for us to laugh at the notion, work together, and make the ISM something Christ would be proud of.
May God continue to richly bless you all,