You’ve probably done this before. You’re part of a bible study or women’s retreat and asked to list the people who were most influential on your spiritual journey. Minnie Jane makes my list. She was a woman of faith. I remember spending the night in her tiny frame house with the beautiful flower bed out front. Minnie Jane introduced me to scripture reading, a daily habit for her. I share her DNA. The seed she planted took root and yet she’d be appalled by my Christian faith.
Minnie Jane was strict Church of Christ, the one with no instrumental music, where women were excluded from supervisory roles and required to have their Sunday school curriculum approved by men. I go to a church where women are ordained as priests and bishops and tend to favor the United Church of Christ and their language of inclusion for all God’s children.
Minnie Jane thought it was O.K. for black people to go to church, just as long as they sat on the back row. The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry, newly elected presiding bishop of the Episcopal church, is the first African American to hold this office. I’d love to say our Sunday morning attendance has many faces of color, but it doesn’t. Whereas Minnie Jane might be proud, I’m ashamed.
I wish Minnie Jane had mentioned her thoughts on heaven. Were her beliefs like the kids in my youth group? Was she certain only Church of Christ members would be there? Would she be shocked to know I question the literal, biblical description of heaven, am skeptical about the book’s inerrancy and can’t fathom the loving, forgiving God I worship abandoning his children to the fiery pits of hell.
Minnie Jane died in 1972. Her seven children are deceased. Two of her grandchildren died this year. I hope they’re all together in heaven. I trust that our maker, our marvelous creator, who I’ve shouted praises to on this glorious spring day, loves me in spite of my imperfections and questions. Maybe he’ll put in a good word for me with Minnie Jane.