Passing of the mantle

This week, Allyn and I were the beneficiaries of three beautiful stoles. All three of the stoles are pre-used. I wrote previously about the gift of my clergy robe and how I find something very special in the passing down of these tools and signs of ministry.

The first two stoles (purple and green — actually the second and third in the photo) were given by our friends Jodi and Kes. Jodi found them while shopping at the Goodwill Outlet and decided they needed a home with us.

I find myself wondering how two clergy stoles ended up in a Goodwill Outlet. Did they belong to someone who got burned out in ministry? Who were so hurt by a congregation, s/he just gave up? Or did they belong to a minister now deceased, whose children inherited these pieces and didn’t know what to do with them? Or simply to someone who moved into a congregation that found no use for robes and stoles? There is perhaps no way of knowing, but it is fun imagining the life of whomever claimed these stoles before they came to us.

The third stole (blue) is from the collection of Molly Marshall. Molly is our seminary president. I have accused her more than once of inflicting the Holy Spirit upon me. It was at a Central breakfast years ago that I felt the “Holy Discontent” (Molly’s words) that led to my leaving southwest Missouri to become a Baptist journalist for the Word&Way. It was her shoulder-tapping a few years later that led me to move from being an occasional class taker to a full-time seminarian. Molly is also simultaneously the most intimidating and the most encouraging person I know.

I am actually not currently in a church that requires robes or stoles. But as someone who loves the lectionary and the church year, I must say I am deeply drawn to their colorful reminders of the seasons of church life. I trust that I will wear all three of these stoles countless times. And as I do, I will feel their significance—the ministers named and unnamed that wore them before me, the trust and confidence of the friends who gave them.

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