For Black History Month – Another Personal Reflection

A blessed remembrance of another, Janice Marie Robinson (1943-2012), friend and fellow priest, sister and soulmate. who, in love, invited me to be more than I was and to become who I was meant to be.

Fall 1988. Newly called as the rector of Trinity Episcopal Church, I arrived in Washington, DC. Janice, having spent years in the fruitful fields of nursing, therapy, and health care administration, followed a call to her new vocation of ordination. Meeting at an annual conference for new clergy in the area, how could we have known it would be the beginning of our love story?

I don’t know how or why Janice (a Philadelphia born, New York City bred woman of depth of mind and mettle, and breadth of self-awareness) and I (a native, more provincial Midwesterner, who, in the words of his namesake Apostle, “looked in a mirror dimly”) bonded as friends. Nevertheless, we did; in an instant, mutually recognizing a sacred, ineffable soul-deep kinship…spirit-ship.

We were June-babies; our birthdays two days apart. Geminis. Twins unto ourselves and to each other. Each of us, publicly gregarious and deeply private and guarded. The restlessness of our hearts disclosed through our spoken words, but also intuitively conveyed and perceived through a nod, a look, a gesture.

Concerning our restlessness, though clergy we were, in the face of the reality of the resident iniquity of inequity in the world and in humankind, we wrestled to hold steadfast to our faith in a God of benevolence. Theodicy – the justification of Divine goodness in relation to the existence of evil – was our shared labor. Janice, always, was hopeful. I, at times, doubtful. Once, amid one of my dispirited, diatribic declarations of disbelief, Janice challenged me in her indescribably sympathetic, yet unmistakably persuasive way: “Paul, that’s b——t! You do believe! Admit it!”

Yes, Janice, I did and I do.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin,[1] in his postulation of our ontology, thought that we are not so much human beings in quest of spiritual experience, but spiritual beings immersed in human experience. This, I believe, is also the heart of the Christian gospel. Through the indwelling of God’s Spirit, one becomes – as Jesus is and as Janice was for me – an embodiment of God’s logos, a living word of timeless love and endless justice.

© 2023 PRA

The Reverend Janice Marie Robinson, sometime Director of Education, The College of Preachers, Washington National Cathedral; sometime rector, Grace Episcopal Church, Silver Spring, Maryland; co-author, Grassroots and Nonprofit Leadership: A Guide for Organizations in Changing Times (1995); prolific preacher; counselor to countless, mentor to many.

[1] Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J. (1881-1955) French Jesuit priest, scientist, paleontologist, theologian, philosopher, and teacher.

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