Notorious - Monday Musing, September 28, 2020
Notorious. Since the death of Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, I have been thinking about notoriety. A notorious person is someone famous or well known. The “Notorious RBG,” as she was affectionately known, wrote notable opinions on gender equality, women's interests, and civil rights. Justice Ginsberg became a cultural icon for her stinging dissents, which increased her popularity, particularly among young women. The first woman in history to lie in state in the US Capital, she was an inspiration and left her mark on American jurisprudence.
Not everyone can gain worldwide notoriety, but that doesn’t lessen their legacy. Dr. Ann Johnston, RSCJ, was not famous, but she certainly left her mark on countless seminarians. Ann was the Gordon Professor of Old Testament Language & Literature at Bangor Theological Seminary and served as my advisor when I attended BTS. Her death last week caught me by surprise, and I was grief stricken upon hearing the news, for she helped shape and form my character as a minister. Ann was kind-hearted and incredibly energetic (think Nuns on the Bus on steroids) who shared her love and knowledge of scripture, inspiring countless clergy.
Ann taught stories of women in scripture who left their mark on their community, leaving legacies that people remember to this day. These prominent women include the Matriarchs Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah, Miriam the prophetess, Deborah the Judge, Huldah the prophetess, Abigail, who married David, Rahab, and Esther, among others. A common phenomenon in the Bible is the pivotal role that women take in subverting man-made power structures. (Notorious RBG’s of ancient times!).
Notoriety can be found close to home as well. Mildred Chamberlain, Virginia Cook, and Nan Cook, three beloved members of The Federated Church of Orleans, left a generous legacy of financial support to this ministry, which will benefit our community for generations. Their vision looked beyond the moment, seeking instead to provide ongoing financial resources to benefit others. Their generosity is truly inspirational to us all.
The death of someone who has made an impact on our life inspires us to remember not only how they helped shape us, but also to consider how we can pass on that legacy to others. The theme of this year’s stewardship campaign is legacy. Notorious RBG’s of our community of faith are invited to consider how we might look to the future and inspire others to consider the legacy we will leave on the ministry of The Federated Church of Orleans. It will be our collective effort that will bring a lasting impact on our community. I invite you to join a new generation of notorious Christians, called to serve our community and beyond, by contributing your time, talent, and gifts so that our legacy of service can continue into the future.