One of my favorite moments from the BWIM Annual Gathering on June 19 at Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham is captured in the photo that accompanies this blog post. The young girl in the picture is my nine-year-old daughter. She stands alongside my friend, Anyra Cano, who works as the Texas BWIM Coordinator as well as serving as youth minister in her church, academic coordinator for the Christian Latina Leadership Institute, and advocate for immigration reform and other social justice issues. The two of them are serving the bread and cup to Molly Marshall, president of Central Baptist Theological Seminary.
This was a proud Mama moment on many levels. While my daughter has led in worship in several ways in our own church, I was proud of her for saying yes to this chance to serve a room full of people she didn’t know in a place that was unfamiliar to her. She did it with confidence and delight – at least for the first few minutes before she started to grow weary of standing for so long! And I loved the reversal of her serving me rather than our usual communion practice of my sharing a piece of my bread and a sip of my cup with her.
Even more, I was taken aback by the power of watching this young girl say to grown people, “This is the body of Christ, broken for you” in the sacred place where four girls, just a few years older than her, were killed in a violent attack as they prepared for worship. The cup of forgiveness is still being offered, and in that moment, it was held out to us by a child and a Latina minister. It was haunting and moving and hopeful all at once.
And of course, the reason that I took this picture in the first place was to capture my child offering a gift and a blessing to Molly Marshall, a woman who has been a symbol, a mentor, an encourager and a pioneering role model to so many women in ministry. I hope that, as their eyes met and fingers touched, my daughter absorbed some of Molly’s courage, confidence, wisdom and heart.
Yes, watching all of this unfold did this Mama’s heart good. I pray that she will be able to find her own voice and hear her own calling as she grows, just like Molly and Anyra have. I hope that she will be surrounded by a sisterhood that will empower her and nurture her and sustain her, just as she was on this particular day.
Julie Long is associate director of Baptist Women in Ministry.