Our work trip to Mississippi came to an end last Saturday. I was amazed that the week had flown by so quickly, and at the same time, I felt as if I had never left Mississippi – a second home to me. In this News and Views, both Rob Grabill and I are offering some reflections on CCDC’s work in Mississippi. In upcoming newsletters, we hope to hear from others who have made the trip. We all perceive our work there a little differently and I believe you will enjoy reading some of those perspectives.
For my part, the highlight of the week is our deepening connection with Solomon Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Cleveland, MS. We have been worshipping there for the past five years or more. Their pastor, Glenell Lee-Pruitt, is a force of nature. She has a PhD and is a professor and administrator at Delta State College. She’s helping to raise her 6 year-old granddaughter while her daughter finishes her degree. Glenell pastors her church “on the side”. Consistent with AME tradition, she was called and ordained to ministry without a theological education and she is now filling in that missing piece by working on her Masters of Divinity degree, taking both on-line and classroom classes. She’s about a year away from completion. Her husband, Steve Pruitt, is a lobbyist in Washington D.C. He commutes to D.C. every week, home only on weekends. She is almost entirely ignored by her fellow black pastors in the Delta, a group that clings to the notion that the pulpit is no place for a woman. Her congregation adores her.
Of all the women I know in ministry, it would be (and has been) Glenell to whom I turn for counsel, encouragement, challenge, and comfort. I admire her deeply, trust her implicitly, and feel a connection to her that transcends race and significant theological differences.
This year, a group of parishioners from Solomon Chapel, led by Pastor Glenell, joined us for a day of work in Jonestown. We all laughed a lot, teased one another unmercifully, and actually installed some siding. It was a very significant moment for the Jonestown Habitat Affiliate, which, like most of the black affiliates in Mississippi, struggles to get local volunteers. The lines of race and class are nearly uncrossable there. Typical of her irrepressible style, Glenell leaped over those lines and brought her congregation with her. On that one day, by doing something that, on its surface doesn’t seem all that remarkable, Glenell bore witness to Christ, in whom there is Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female (Galatians 3:28).
And here’s the thing I love about Glenell – she knew exactly what she was doing. She knew that her parishioners needed to shed some prejudices they had been wearing about the future Habitat homeowners. She knew it would be an important experience for them to work alongside a bunch of really pale northerners. God knows it was important for us! Lucky, lucky us to have been led by such a powerful witness to Christ.
Before we said goodbye, Glenell and I did a calendar check. We booked our next phone call and a weekend in October when she will travel here to New Hampshire to enjoy the Fall and preach at CCDC. I can hardly wait. As Rob said in our staff meeting yesterday, bring your seatbelts. We’re all in for a fast trip to the heart of God’s justice with Glenell our conductor and guide.
Love to us all - Carla