The Pandemic has reminded us that, regardless of our views around COVID, vaccinations, and any number of other issues, we are all one in Christ Jesus and are inextricably connected with each other.
Throughout the summer I was reminded of that connection. It was July 23, and Gary, Talitha, and I had climbed to the top of the Mount Constitution Loop Trail on the island of Orcas. Orcas is located in the Salish Sea in the San Juan Island chain off the northwest coast of Washington State. Our youngest daughter, who lives in Seattle, had planned a wonderful series of hikes for the week. It was a trip we intended for a year ago but had to postpone because of COVID.
Mount Constitution is a 6.6 mile loop trail through the forest that has some steep elevation gains and is amazingly beautiful. Once at the top, you are greeted by a 360-degree view of the Cascade Mountains, from Mount Ranier to Mt. Baker and into British Columbia.
Unlike in other locations, visitors to Orcas Island have the choice of either driving to the top of Mt. Constitution or walking. As avid hikers, driving wasn’t an option for us.
After we had our fill of the view and ate our sandwiches for lunch, we stopped at the restrooms in the parking lot before scampering back down the mountain. As we waited in line, Gary noticed that the young woman next to us was wearing a white cap with a big blue “Y” on it. Gary immediately recognized it, pointed a finger at her and said, “YALE!” She said, “Yes!” and he said, “Me too! I’m M. Div.‘75 and S.T.M. ‘81.” And she said, “I went to Yale Divinity School, too!” We learned that Ann graduated with a Master of Divinity degree in 2018.
What a coincidence! Gary then introduced me, noting that I also had degrees from Yale and revealing that I am serving as the United Methodist Bishop of Iowa and the Dakotas. And so the coincidences continued. Ann then added that she is a United Methodist and pastors a local church in Washington State.
Ann was a bit surprised but was also very excited to introduce me to her father, who was nearby. It just so happens that he, too, is a United Methodist pastor in the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference. Ann’s father had served as a District Superintendent and as a General Conference alternate delegate, and he remembered when I was elected a bishop in 2016. But there’s even more. Not only does Ann’s father serve in Eastern Pennsylvania, but I was born and raised in southeastern PA. He knew my small hometown of Souderton.
The connections were amazing: Yale grads, clergy, United Methodists, from the same part of the country – all connected in Christ at the top of Constitution Mountain.
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