Reluctant prophets: Jeremiah 1:4–10

My grandmother was 14 years old and living on a farm in Michigan when she made an appointment with her Presbyterian minister to tell him that she felt called to the ministry. “I’m sorry, Emma,” he said. “You must be mistaken. God doesn’t call women into the ministry.” A day or two later her father went to see the minister. “If Emma says she’s called to preach, she’s called to preach—and what’s more, she could preach circles around any boy in this county.” Needless to say, the conviction of a girl and the entreaties of her father did not prevail over the Presbyterian practices of the day.

Cloud of witnesses: Hebrews 11:29–12:2

Soon after I was called as senior minister of First Congregational Church in Burlington, Vermont, a church member gave me a tour of the building. When we got to the formal church parlor, I paused to take in the portraits of my predecessors hanging on the walls. I was awestruck. “There they are,” I said. “The cloud of witnesses.” I was only 27 at the time, in many ways too young to know that I was too young to be taking on this job. But even then I knew that I would need all the help I could get to run my leg of the race.