Today we honor Julia Chester Emery. Julia was born in 1852 in Massachusetts. In 1876, around age 24, she became the Secretary of the Woman’s Auxiliary of the Board of Missions in the Episcopal Church. Julia served in that position for 40 years, helping the Church recognize its call to proclaim the gospel both at home and overseas. During her tenure, she visited every Diocese and missionary district within the United States. She traveled around the world, visiting missions in remote areas of China, in Japan, Hong Kong, the Philippines, and Hawaii. Her hope was to open up new occasions for service and acceptance of new tasks. Through her leadership, the Woman’s Auxiliary emphasized educational programs, raised awareness of social issues, developed leadership among women, and created the United Thank Offering. Julia’s faith, courage, spirit of adventure, and ability to inspire others made her a leader respected and valued by the whole Church.
It was on Julia’s feast day four years ago that I was ordained a priest. At an ordination, it is difficult to not get caught up in the moment. Years and years of meetings, tests, obligations, and evaluations made me feel like I could finally relax – and enjoy the fact that the entire assembly finally confirmed that this ministry was my call. I remember feeling like I was finally wearing the right shoes as I stepped into my new role.
The truth is, we all have a pair of ministry shoes. Our epistle lesson from Romans confirms this idea. “We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us” – prophecy, ministry, teaching, exhortation, giving generously, leading, being compassionate. The epistle reminds us that all of us are given a ministry; our job is to live into that ministry – to wear those shoes God gave us. And when we put on those shoes, we are to not lag in zeal; we are to be ardent in spirit and serve the Lord.
The question for each of us is to not only make sure we have on the right shoes, but to keep checking that they are on. Some of us might prefer to slip on something less comfortable, but also less demanding. But Romans reminds us today that when we sport those unique shoes, we not only impact others, we impact our own experiences with God, too. So check those feet, do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, and of course, serve the Lord. Amen.