Twenty years ago Susan Morrison, who was director of the Council on Ministries in the Baltimore-Washington Conference, had to go buy shoes. She had, through the moving of the Holy Spirit, surprised the church by being elected a bishop.
Morrison attended the jurisdictional conference with no plans of the episcopacy. She hadn’t packed clothes appropriate for a consecration. She wasn’t even sure that this was something she really wanted.
But the wind of God had blown and started a pilgrimage journey of justice, outrageous love and audacious grace that helped shape the denomination.
At this session of the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference, Bishop Morrison is retiring. While she has spent her episcopal ministry away from Baltimore, many members of the Baltimore-Washington Conference claim her as their daughter, and mother, in faith.
On July 16, the conference honored Bishop Morrison and Bishop Violet Fisher, who is also retiring, in a worship service.
As part of the festivities, those present were encouraged to ask questions of the two retirees.
The Rev. Vicki Starnes rose and asked the bishops what wisdom they would offer to her 15 year-old-daughter, who feels she might be called to the ministry.
Bishop Fisher had soulful advice to offer. “Tell her to stay in the Word,” she said, recounting how she had started preaching at the age of 16. Reading the Bible helps one discover the joyful and sometimes difficult disciplines that accompany one on the Christian journey.
Bishop Fisher told about, as a young woman, connecting with older women pray-ers, who taught and nurtured her.
But mostly, any young woman considering the ministry should remember that “this is the day,” the bishop said. “Start preparing.”
Bishop Morrison’s advice was more concise: “Well, simply, you go girl,” she said.
She then told about a time early in her ministry when she was meeting with some of the first clergywomen to be ordained in The United Methodist Church. These were the pioneers, Morrison said. They had encountered obstacles of every kind. One woman told her story and it wasn’t an easy one. But she said, “I’d just give nothing for the journey,” Morrison remembered
That spirit is the kind Bishop Morrison encourages everyone in the church to discover and make their own.
“It been one helluva journey,” she said. “It’s a glorious journey.”
When asked what piece of music brings her joy, Morrison chose the hymn “Just a Closer Walk with Thee,” and the crowd sang it along with her.
Her’s has been a glorious walk – a journey that has touched more people that she’ll ever imagine, and her legacy resounds.