Why I Journeyed to Kansas to Support My Sister Marie C. King at Commencement
It was on our way to our first class in seminary that I first met Marie. We were flying from Nashville to Kansas City and then being driven on to Conception Abbey for a weeklong class in Benedictine Spirituality. I’m not sure how we knew that we were both making this trip, starting this new adventure, but we had figured it out. What I remember most from that morning her kind nature.
If you’re fortunate enough to be in conversation with Marie C. King then you know what it feels like for someone to truly listen to you. Marie is warm, kind, and pastoral. Perhaps these are the things that endeared her to me initially, but as we progressed through our coursework, Marie and our other seminary sisters and I leaned on one another for support during family concerns, health issues, and all the learning and growing we were experiencing in our studies. Central even extended our learning all the way to Thailand and Marie and I traveled there together with a group of fellow students and professors. You really get to know someone when you travel halfway around the world with them trying new food, learning to greet one another in a new language, and seeing how God and Love are at work in the world far, far from our homes.
When my mom faced a very serious health diagnosis during our time in seminary, Marie, who is also a nurse, listened to me as a friend and as a daughter, and she also answered some questions that I had. When my dad was gravely ill, Marie was there for me again. She listened to me and wanted to be sure I knew how serious the situation was. Then, as I cried on the phone, she prayed for my dad, my family, the medical staff, and me. Always the pastor.
Marie also challenges me to consider realities that are not my own. I’ve seen her preach powerfully and lovingly to her congregation which included some people who lacked stable housing. To see a church community form in abundant love led by and cared for by my friend, Pastor Marie C. King was an experience I’ll long treasure. I’ve learned from Marie’s accounts of life as an African-American woman growing up in the south and I’ve learned so much about her call to ministry and the ever-unfolding path to her realizing that call.
When my friend wore her cap and gown and received her degree in Kansas, I was honored to be there. This was her moment! We had come so far since that morning in the airport four years ago and I wanted Marie to know how proud I am of her and how thankful I am for her. I wanted her to know that her seminary sister was right there cheering her on. We seminary sisters continue to keep in touch and support one another and I hope it always may be so.
Jennifer Thomas, Central Seminary WLI Alumna (M.Div. 2018)