When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” (John 20:20-22, NABRE)
Ministry is a dynamic response to the Holy Spirit’s call. Christian ministry is more than simply doing something ceremonial week-to-week. Rather, it is something that Christ does in us and through us and that we do in and through Christ. As Ministers of government act not on their own but on the authority of the officials who send them, so, too, we act not on our own but on the authority of God who calls us. Jesus said, “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.” (John 15:16, NABRE)
There is a cherished gospel hymn, “So Send I You” which has been labelled by many church leaders as the finest missionary hymn of the twentieth century. It was first published in 1954 after having been written sixteen years earlier by a Canadian school teacher, Margaret Clarkson. Miss Clarkson, who was born in 1915, was a teacher in a gold-mining camp in northern Ontario, Canada. It was a lonely life for this woman, but she also knew that this is where God wanted her to serve Him. In her memoirs, Miss Clarkson reminisced about the inspiration for the hymn. She wrote, “I was studying the Word one night and meditating on the loneliness of my situation and came in my reading to John 20, and the words ‘So send I you’. Because of a physical disability I knew that I could never go to the mission field, but God seemed to tell me that night that this was my mission field, and this was where He had sent me. I was then twenty-three, in my third year of teaching. I had written and published verse all of my life, so it was natural to put my thoughts into verse.”
The lyrics of Miss Clarkson’s hymn resonated deeply within my heart during both of my ordinations. In his book, “Calling & Character” Dr. William Willimon offers this perspective about ordination, “In a most gracious way, God has this way of taking the stuff of our character that we present at ordination, and using this, remaking and remolding that, using us for divine purpose.”
After my first year of public ministry, I considered changing the title of the hymn to, “So Send I Pain.” I’m certain that many Christian ministers habitually scrutinize their saneness when taking “the calling.” During those flashes of uncertainty, the Holy Spirit stretches out to you and through the gift of prophecy, Spirit redeploys your calling. In the early spring of 2014, I had such a happenstance on Palm Sunday while traveling through Nashville, Tennessee.
On Palm Sunday I was on location shooting video at “Walking in Faith International Worship Center” with Bishop Jewell Granberry. Bishop Granberry had invited me to attend her service while I was in Nashville. Later, I got together with Bishop Granberry after the service and conducted an interview for my USBN program, “Faces & Places.” The music for the worship hour was provided by the youth choirs and I had been transported into the glory of the Holy Spirit by way of their heartfelt singing. Bishop Granberry began her sermon backed-up with flowing phrases from a gospel organist who musically orchestrated an inspiring effect. And then there was a sudden shift in the moment when I heard Bishop Granberry pause, and then she focused her attention in my direction.
“Ah . . .” (The organist suddenly ad libs a phrase as Bishop Granberry dwells for a moment about what she is about to disclose -The organ sharply crescendos and then fades,-Bishop Granberry begins her prophetic vision from her pulpit.) “. . . Romero . . . What you don’t know about me is that I’m a prophet. And earlier when I asked you were you going to plant another church, you told me no. And so I left that alone, because you told me that this is your ministry. God says that you have another ministry and that you will plant another church. And that there will be people to be there when you do it. But in your heart you have a strong burden for people that have been misunderstood and that have been sort of thrown away. God says that you will plant a church that will be great because you will have support all around the country.” (The entire recording of Bishop Granberry’s prophecy and subsequent interview can be viewed at: Bishop Granberry Prophecy) At the following interview in her office, Bishop Granberry encapsulated her prophecy by saying, “So often, you connect with people that people don’t always quite understand. Sort of like the traffic patrol—you know–you direct people in the right direction.” Over the past sixteen months I’ve spent uncountable moments musing over her prophecy. Led by Spirit’s wisdom and an occasional kick in the head, I’m starting to see an impression as I have deliberated these questions: Who are the misunderstood people of Bishop Granberry’s prophecy? Perhaps it is those who are fellow pilgrims of the ISM family?
For the past sixteen months I’ve undergone a wilderness experience assessing my ministry with Universal Spirit Broadcasting Network (USBN). During those months I’ve undergone a disastrous education embracing video editing for greenhorns. I’ve also studied the mysterious owner’s manual of my professional digital video camera and have realized the profundity of the adage that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. I’ve also reviewed my video library where I’ve recorded over 50 hours of raw video interviews with ISM clergy. I imagine Gloria Steinem may have synopsized a common theme of these interviews when she expressed, “Being misunderstood by people whose opinions you value is absolutely the most painful.”
All through my interviews with ISM clergy I’ve heard many stories of being misunderstood by the church community of their childhood or at a time in later life. These heartrending experiences developed their spiritual and moral character into a better sense of the mission of their ministry. I’m reminded of what Baz Luhrmann (an ingenious movie producer/director from Australia) philosophized: “The ugly duckling is a misunderstood universal myth. It’s not about turning into a blonde Barbie doll or becoming what you dream of being; it’s about self-revelation, becoming who you are.”
At this point, I have an impression of what Bishop Granberry was seeing in her prophecy regarding the church of the misunderstood. A secondary mission for USBN is producing and projecting the stories of ISM clergy who are, by the grace of God, living their calling to be servants of the people. In my interview with Bishop Erick Frank Martinez (Pastor of Iglesia Santa Barbara, located in South Miami, Florida) he recalled the painful years of his formation. During the interview Bishop Martinez electrified me with his passion for the ISM when he asserted that the movement has a divine purpose. (The inspiring interview with Bishop Martinez of the Old Catholic Church in America can be viewed at: Bishop Erick Frank Martinez Interview)
In assessing one’s ministry it is easy to hover over past failures. Often those failures were caused by being unappreciated, misjudged or misinterpreted. Dr. Willimon concludes his book with this thought: “Despair over my failures, moral and otherwise, is not permitted a pastor who knows John 20 by heart . . . The means of his work, for better or worse, is us. To be enlisted in that mission is a great burden, but on most days, a blessing as well. It is a great blessing to have one’s little life caught up in the great doxological crescendo named church, that song sung by the saints throughout the ages, so that we might sing it too today.”
There is no one better to understand being misunderstood than the American Economist, Allan Greenspan, when he quipped, “If I turn out to be particularly clear, you’ve probably misunderstood what I’ve said.” God bless the Church of the Misunderstood.
Fr. Rick Romero is priest in the Old Catholic Churches International. He is a friar in the Order of Saint Francis, Old Catholic. He is the founder of Universal Spirit Broadcasting Network and is a tireless advocate for social justice.