Guest author: Liz Ellmann, MDiv
“There’s a new world coming,” Dr. Barbara Holmes told us during the community event in St. Paul, Minnesota, USA. Hundreds of people gathered to learn from her how mystical ways are passed on in black family traditions. When Holmes played Bernice Johnson Reagon’s music, “There’s a New World Coming,” the song’s rhythm sank into my ears and my bones. Throughout the conference, the refrain, “There’s a new world coming. Where will you be standing when it comes?” stayed with me.
Holmes personalized her story about spiritual direction in the mystical legacies of black women by letting us know that the following morning she would be burying her mother. The ballroom quieted as we held Holmes in her grief. Many of us met Holmes’s mother during the Tributaries of Compassion gathering last October. Her mother gazed with pride and gentle strength when Dr. B—as students at United Theological Seminary call their new president—shared her passionate response to a Langston Hughes poem.
The bond of love and deep respect between mother and daughter filled the room with a sense of purpose back in October. Dr. B.’s compassionate mother was witnessing her daughter live into her dream of becoming a leader in her new city and in her innovative role as seminary president. On stage in April, Dr. B offered kindness and gratitude to her beloved mother—for passing along her faith and compassion that she so freely shares with others. There’s a new world coming.
Another mother, daughter—and grandmother—touched my heart during the conference: Christine Luna Munger, the chair of the local host committee. Because her baby is only five months old, Christine invited her mother to look after daughter, Elisa, between nursing and napping. Elisa is pictured here soaking up lots of attention from volunteers who helped Christine make the conference a very meaningful event. I don’t remember an SDI conference with so many generations all in one place. There’s a new world coming.
There is one more mother to acknowledge, even though her novices are not biological kin: Kathleen McAlpin, RSM, who celebrated her golden jubilee during the conference. For fifty years, Kathleen has been tending her relationship with God as a sister of Mercy. She had just returned from the Philippines caring for the spiritual formation of young novices in one of the poorest regions of the Philippines. We had a good time listening to Kathleen’s nurturing stories while indulging in cake.
Yes. There’s a new world coming, and I am blessed to be standing among some of the best mothers on the planet.
As you celebrate May Day and Mother’s Day, what are you noticing about a new world coming? Where will you be standing when it comes?