Tuesday, April 5, 2011
Virginia at Cedar Crest
Today I had the pleasure of visiting Virginia Ramey Mollenkott and Suzannah Tilton in their new home at Cedar Crest in Pompton Plains, New Jersey.
Their windows look out on a pond with trees and bushes--and also spring peepers, tiny frogs who pipe a noisy mating chorus at this time of year.
We shared morning devotions and sang in a round, "For health and love and daily bread, we give thee thanks, O God."
Nancy Hardesty was on our minds because of Letha Dawson Scanzoni's report on her status as she undergoes the sacred process of rejoining her Maker and returning to dust. She's dying of pancreatic cancer in Atlanta, Georgia, attended by her partner, Evelyn.
We looked at Desperate for Authenticity, a book on Virginia's theology written by Patricia Hawley of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (2011) and heard the story of Virginia's loving ministry to this woman when she sent Virginia a transcript of it.
We looked at Jesus and the Feminists by Margaret Kostenberger (2008) and wondered why she had simple factual errors, such as saying that Virginia had taught at Patterson College for 44 years. And why did she put Virginia in the same category as two feminists known for rejecting their Christian faith, Mary Daly and Daphne Hampson?
We watched the documentary The Bible Tells Me So with Senator Dick Gephardt and other parents of gay or lesbian children.
I dined with Virginia and Suzannah in one of the three restaurants available at Cedar Crest, a community of 2,000 residents who form caring relationships together in these last years of their lives.
I heard about Emily Aumiller (a friend of Virginia and also of Phyllis Trible since their undergraduate days at Meredith College), who died suddenly on February 26. Her husband Richard continues to be a dear friend. Making friends and losing them is a part of life here, Virginia and Suzannah report.
Every Monday evening they dine with their friends Ruben and Bobbie, and I was impressed with their caring for these two, neither of whom has a faith perspective.
Ruben founded a successful business, RC Fine Foods; the lanyard around his neck says www.rcfinefoods.com.
Bobbie, a widow, worked as a secretary all her life and did not go to college, but she reads the New York Times completely every day and is well informed on all things from international affairs to the arts. With her coiffed hair, make-up, and two strands of pearls, she looks like an unlikely friend for Virginia and Suzannah, but Virginia likes her intelligence and hopes to raise Bobbie's view of herself and her spiritual potential.
In short, Virginia is still evangelical to the core, and Cedar Crest is her new mission field.
These words we recited together from A Course in Miracles capture her ministry there and everywhere:
I am here only to be truly helpful.
I am here to represent Christ, who sent me.
I do not have to worry about what to say or what to do because the One who sent me will direct me.
I am content to be wherever She wishes, knowing She goes there with me.
I will be healed as I let her teach me to heal.