Bishop Leontine T. C. Kelly is the first black woman bishop of a major religious denomination in the US of A. In 1984 she was elected a Bishop of the UMC. Following retirement she became a professor at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley.

“As a child I asked my father, how could black people be Christian? How could they accept it, when the very persons that enslaved them taught them Christianity? My father said that in God there was the strength and the source for patience to wait for freedom. That was his sense of it. What I have found, of course, is that everybody wasn’t waiting. People were working.

As children in Cincinnati, we located a station of the underground railway in the basement of our house. It went from the house to the church. When my father told us about it, he said that the witness of this church was not the wood brought all the way from Italy for the great beams. The real witness of that church was in the cellar. Someone had taken the risk to move against society and the government. It was a sanctuary movement of those days. I was excited about what kind of preaching was going on in a church like that.

My father not only preached, but he also ran a church that was the economic, cultural, and political center of the community. He also became an Ohio legislator.

We were not reared that politics was not a part of a Christian’s duty. If we were going to pray for liberation and equality, then we also had to work for it.”

“Another question was, Why do we stay in a major denomination that by its own policies does not accept us? Our whole concept was that we were in mission to the church. Where the church saw us as objects of mission, we saw the major church as a mission field for us, knowing that if you ever got the major churches of this country straight, the you were working on the country at the same time.”

Bishop Leontine T. C. Kelly, I Dream a World: Portraits of Black Women Who Changed America

photograph I took in a very sacred space of strength, rest, healing and prayer offered by another phenomenal woman whom I love and who inspires me daily.

May we walk into sanctuaries,

ready to worship and dream with God & our neighbors a better world.

One where love is the motivation and the end,

and words preached & shared within these walls touch the imaginations and hearts in such a way

we are no longer comfortable with status quo living

and are moved to move against any society, including the church,

that shackles, dehumanizes, neglects, ignores the needs of our communities for the sake of personal gain and lacks in imagination.

As we wake, walking out closed doors, may the words that composed our dreams in our sanctuaries be made flesh.

With God, by the power of the Holy Spirit, may we co-create a more just and life-giving world.

May our sanctuaries, holy spaces, birth movements of faith, hope and true Agape living in the here and NOW.