U-C: What I See

Friday, September 10, 2004

In honor of a Presbyterian Superwoman

At the General Assembly, I developed a joking relationship with the commissioners that seemed to revolve around my incessant use of the word "incredible" (they were right), and my constant stress on reaching out to young people.

As we went along, I was rightfully reminded by commissioners of the importance of the elders in our church as well, and I went out of my way to express my appreciation for elders in the faith who have mentored me over the years.

One of the people I certainly could have mentioned was Betty Mae Seel. Betty Mae and her husband Bob, both now in their mid-seventies, have lived the kind of life I aspire to.

Last week, Betty Mae preached (as she did many Sundays in our Presbytery), and kicked off a new Bible study in the church where she was Parish associate. A day later, she received test results from her doctor that made it clear she had very little time to live, and - unbelievably - she died last Friday night. I just came from her funeral.

Betty Mae went to seminary in the fifties, pastored in several churches in Colorado, and then married Bob. Together, they made a commitment to become missionaries in Venezuela, and then spent years developing a leadership development program for the church there. When they left, it was because they new they had to get out of the way of the generation of leaders they had discipled.

Returning to the U.S. about 1978, Betty Mae returned to seminary to do the hard work of studying greek and hebrew in order to pass her ordination exams and become a minister of the word and sacrement, a goal she achieved in December of 1982 after a great deal of hard work. There is a generation of women who are now retired or who have died who have covered pretty much every leadership position we've got to offer in this denomination, and Betty Mae was one of them. After Bob became the Presbytery Exec. in de Cristo Presbytery in the early eightees, Betty Mae dedicated her life to ministry. She has provided critical leadership in a number of our smaller churches over the years, has been the primary support system for the camp we share with Grand Canyon Presbytery (Montlure), was pivotal in her support for the Presbyterian Border Ministries in Arizona, and she has worked tirelessly, right up until the moment she died, to mentor those who are preparing for ministry through her efforts with the Committee on Ministry. Since retirement, she has continued to serve as a parish associate.

You know what I liked most about Betty Mae? She was as plainspoken as anyone I know. She was fearless in her commitment to fairness and to justice in our Presbytery. She knew her own mind, trusted God as she worked out her sense of call, and spoke boldly even when she knew a position she was taking might be unpopular.

Sounds like somebody I've been trying to emulate, que no?

Just for the record, I have more mentors - people who truly have guided me through their own example, than I can easily count. I'll miss Betty Mae, but who she has been in my life, and in the life of so many others, will live on.