In a few hours, over 1,400 people will gather in Indianapolis for the ordination of the 11th Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis. And she is amazing.
When Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows came to the walkabouts last fall, she knocked our socks off. Many of us wondered is it just me, or is she amazing? Apparently a lot of us felt the same way. A short time later, we voted overwhelmingly in support of her. It was never close.
Jennifer is a true child of God. Beautiful, smart, funny, and thoughtful. She joined us in February and has been preparing for today by listening and praying and realizing the tremendous shoes she’s stepping into.
She’s wearing big shoes and standing on the backs of giants, to mix metaphors into an appropriately clunky image. But she is poised and gracious. Reflective and generous. Like the shoes aren’t ill-fitting at all, or the honor beyond her humility.
As the first African-American woman bishop to lead a diocese, she’s going to be noticed. To also be the first woman to follow a woman and one of the first women bishops, well…that begins to highlight the size and weight of those shoes.
For many people, the fear of identity politics obscures the beauty revealed in such an occasion as this one. I know for some, these challenges are merely hype or politics. Further proof that the challenges are being leveled or concern that some of our own had enough trouble with a white woman as our bishop.
These fears highlight not only our history and why overcoming these challenges is powerful. They name how much more Jennifer has to be the right person. How much more she has to be perfect. To silence the insinuation of preference and zeal. How much better. No matter how decisive her election was. Or how genuine her spirit is.
When I share stories about her on Facebook, I have trouble sharing my genuine excitement. How lucky I feel that she will be my bishop. How selfishly happy I am that it is her.
And how happy I am for my congregation and my diocese. I am happy for my children who get another amazing role model. Another bishop of great depth and grace.
I am so happy that she will be my bishop.
This statement feels so selfish. Because she isn’t a gift. She is a child of God. She is called to a ministry leading some Jesus people in Indiana to love each other better.
I want to share something more generous with ecclesiastical consistency. I want to say how important she is to my people here. As the person she is. And all that keeps coming to mind is how lucky we are for her.
The Spirit is doing something here. I believe it.
Now I’m resisting the urge to see her as the anointed savior of our diocese or the prayed-for queen. Her place is not in the seat of honor, but in a place of service.
But I can’t help the excitement.
She’s a person, not a superhero. But that makes it all the better.
She isn’t perfect. And she’s the best.
She’s a double-first in the church. And the right one.
As she is, a person.