As I’m sure most of you know, Dr. Jennifer Vasquez has recently left her position as Director of Formation. Jennifer came to us five years ago as Director of Christian Education, which to us meant Sunday School. She was just finishing up her doctorate degree (2016) at the time. We learned quickly she has a passion and talent for outreach, advocacy, and community networking. We promoted Jennifer to Director of Formation in 2018. This fused outreach and advocacy ministries with Christian Education.
With this promotion, Jennifer continued to lead Christian education, while also helping us to bring the loving reputation that we are known for having inside our walls outside to our community. She reminded us that sometimes religion isn’t comfortable, sometimes in order to make a difference, to really help people, we have to get outside our comfort zone. She reminded us that we are blessed and as Christians need to share that blessing with those less fortunate and those in need of justice. I know there are many parishioners that have reached out to her, or Paul, or one of the wardens about their concerns for St. Paul’s without Jennifer. She’s been a rock and a driving force for us, and we will miss her dearly. I honestly believe that there is no one person that could have done for St. Paul’s all that Jennifer has. But here’s my advice for us moving forward:
We’ve been reading Bishop Curry’s new book, “Love is the Way”, in the St. Paul’s book club the last few weeks and one of the quotes that we discussed this last week has stuck with me.
“In Richard Power’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Overstory, one of the characters tells a joke that goes something like this:
What’s the best time to plant a tree? Twenty years ago.
What’s the second-best time? Right now.
The best time to plant a seed is now. Change is a long, slow march heavenward, with as many twists and turns as there are branches in a growing tree.”
Bishop Curry goes on to talk about planting seeds of hope and how change isn’t always linear, there are missteps and obstacles and you may not see the changes because they take time. But he believes we’re always moving forward, and that if we don’t contribute to progress because it’s difficult or we believe it’s outside of our grasp, then we’ve already lost.
I’ve been a witness to many of the seeds Jennifer has planted at St. Paul’s; youth group, bible studies, community meals, the Reconciliation team and Sacred Ground, and the Environmental Stewardship team to name a few. You might not realize it, but many of the things you’re involved in at St. Paul’s have felt Jennifer’s touch in one way or another. In most of the things I’ve just listed, they wouldn’t exist or wouldn’t be what they are today without her. I worry about our ability to keep things progressing and to continue to help those in need outside our walls. But Jennifer has planted these seeds. She’s spent the last five years nurturing them and nurturing us as well. Will all the seeds left behind by Jennifer grow, and bear fruit? In reality, no, but there is a garden to care for. It’s up to us to step up and continue the ministries that we feel passionate about. We’ve let Jennifer lead us in these for the past five years but now we need to step up and become the caretakers of these seeds of hope. It’s going to take many of us to fill Jennifer’s role, but it’s our Christian duty to help and to love.
While Jennifer was hired into a lay position at St. Paul’s, she was also a Lutheran Deacon, since 2003. The ELCA says deacons “offer a ministry of Word and service, sharing the hope of Christ, helping where there is need, and equipping others for healing and justice in the world.” Jennifer’s vows were evident in every aspect of her ministry with us.
When I was thinking about what to write for this, it went a little differently in my head. It was meant to be a commendation of Jennifer’s work for St. Paul’s. But we all know how wonderful Jennifer has been. We know that she’s made changes happen at St. Paul’s quicker than would have been possible with any other person. She has so much love and passion for God and all of His people. We have all been witness to that. I urge you, if you feel called, to take the time to write a quick note of love and support to Jennifer. She doesn’t need our worry and anxiety, and as I’ve said above, it’s up to us to address that. But she’s made a difference to many of us and deserves, during this time when we couldn’t give her goodbye hugs and words in person, to hear our support.
Jaimie Deye, Jr. Warden
Jennifer with Todd & Jaimie Deye & Kris Martz at St Paul’s booth at the Maumee Street Fair