“Both beautiful and terrible.”
This last week I had the opportunity to serve on the leadership team of the Mo Ranch Women’s Conference at Mo Ranch near Hunt, TX.
This year the theme of the conference was “My Story is Worth Telling, Your Story is Worth Hearing” with I Peter 3:15b as our theme Scripture passage.
“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” The popular author and blogger Rachel Held Evans was our keynote speaker. The conference was attended by close to 400 women — my mother, mother-in-law, and close friends among them.
Mo Ranch is one of my spiritual homes. It is a thin place for me, a place where I feel the presence of God most acutely. I am overjoyed about any opportunity to go back. During this last week, I had the privilege of serving alongside some incredibly smart, gifted, and witty women in ministry. I served as both conference chaplain and a workshop leader.
The week was a gift to me. It was sacred time. It was a time of growth and learning, laughter and joy, hope and sorrow. It was equal parts wonderful and terrible.
On Friday afternoon, the unimaginable happened. A member of our leadership team, Rev. Kelly Allen, pastor of University Presbyterian Church in San Antonio, TX, experienced a hemorrhagic stroke. She was taken to the hospital where she died on Sunday morning after her family had gathered around her and arrangements for organ donation had been made. A bright light in our denomination went out that morning. She was 50.
Where does my hope come from? My hope is found in the promises of the resurrection. I hold onto the promise that in life and in death we belong to God. I hold onto the promise that nothing in this world can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ. That is why I hope. And I received a beautiful, stark reminder of it this last week. I give thanks to God for the opportunity I was given to serve alongside some truly amazing women at the conference. I give thanks to God for the life of Kelly Allen.