Remembering Madeleine

[On Sunday, August 15th, Grace celebrated ‘Mary, Mother of God’ Sunday by remembering the life of Madeleine Manning, we include another recollection of her ministry here]

Madeleine Manning and I first met before we began attending Grace; when I worked at the Spring Branch Memorial Library, Madeleine was one of our customers because she lived in the area close to the library.

But we became acquainted—and later good friends and fellow seekers on the journey of faith—after we both started attending worship here at Grace.

Among the many things I remember about Madeleine is her laughter—loud and infectious. Whenever she laughed—even on the other side of the fellowship hall—I knew it was Madeleine; her laughter was full of the joy of living and just made you want to join in. It was one clue to her passionate personality and to her passionate spirituality—her daily living out the reconciling love of our Mother and Father God.

I vividly remember the time when she told me that she started every day in praise of the Divine by speaking aloud a poem by e.e. cummings:

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun's birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any--lifted from the no
of all nothing--human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

Poetry and art were integral expressions of her faith, of her deep spirituality. She wrote many prayers for worship here at Grace and worked with other congregants to create spirit-filled worship experiences for special observances.

I loved to watch her during worship because she often danced during certain hymns and parts of the service. She believed in the importance of tactile activities as part of our experience of the Divine and incorporated these into various worship events, including the Pride Worship services over the years.

I remember the time that the congregants came forward, picked up a stone to represent a grief/hurt that needed God’s healing, and placed it on the altar—very powerful imagery. Worship was sight, sound, and touch!

Without Madeleine’s passion and tireless energy, the first Pride Worship service would not have been the success it was. She and I had a shared vision to start an annual Pride Worship during Gay Pride.

I visited many of the LGBT religious organizations—Integrity, Dignity, More Light—to talk about creating Pride Worship services, and once they were committed to do so, Madeleine spent many hours scheduling meetings of clergy and lay people to create the service, scheduling the travel arrangements for the guest ministers, and all the many details to make the service happen.

And happen it did—the inaugural service here at Grace!—and has been happening every year at churches throughout the city.

Madeleine was passionate in her work for peace and social justice issues. She saw everyone as a child of God and were welcomed into the community of faith. One summer, Madeleine went to Chicago for a Lutherans Concerned North America conference, and I remember her standing proud outside the ELCA national office to protest the ELCA policy concerning glbt clergy. She believed that if God calls you to service and ministry, then you should be free to answer that sacred calling.

There are so many wonderful things I could write about Madeleine and even the things that we sometimes disagreed about, but above all I shall always treasure knowing her and how she practiced the spirit of justice and her dedication to the transformational work to build community and loving relationships.


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