– Rev. Stephen P. Bouman
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and it is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.”
As I reflect on my parish ministry, I realize that mentoring relationships were always forming. For more than a year in one congregation I served, I never knew that the sexton was a musician and a poet. William Garcia, a quiet and competent high school kid, cleaned the church and school every week. A year into our polite relationship, we finally had a real conversation as part of a series of one-on-ones I was doing in the congregation. Our church was contemplating beginning a liturgy in Spanish, and so I was meeting with and listening to some of our bilingual members. William and I sat for over an hour in the church basement. I listened as he told me about his passion for the violin, his love of poetry, the jumble of his chaotic family life, and his efforts to hammer out an education and musical excellence from the local schools. Looming over our conversation, as it does for most city kids, was the street. I asked, “Will you meet with me an hour a week for a month and teach me about your world? Oh, and by the way, will you play your violin in church sometime?” He smiled.
William and the other Hispanic members became my mentors in mission, setting a new table. When we began our liturgy in the Spanish language, it was William who accompanied the hymns on his violin and who wrote the prayers of the church in a language of poetic beauty. He played, prayed, and led, because one day I stopped ignoring him and listened.
That my own life has been given to me by my Creator as an act of unconditional love, and then returned to me through the death and resurrection of Jesus as a free gift to be shared for the sake of the world is an astonishing insight into my identity and vocation. And that is the lens through which we see all who touch our lives. Houston will be filled with William Garcias, living into the free gift of their own lives and giftedness, trying to figure out how to use that graceful freedom as a servant in the world, grateful for the presence and attention of those leaders and mentors who touch their lives and are touched by them.