I’ve learned a lot for ministry from my extended family.
Earlier this month I had the privilege of officiating at my aunt’s memorial service. There are eleven cousins on that side of the family, and nine of us were there. It was a tremendous blessing to lead the service and to be together with my cousins, assorted spouses, two uncles and an aunt.
My mother was the oldest daughter. I’m an oldest daughter. We both found it natural to be serious and responsible. There are times in my ministry those qualities have helped me. Yet my aunt Gene was always fun to be with, and introduced me to new experiences– also a good thing for me and my ministry. I’m grateful for her life, what she taught me, and for the chance to be part of her service.
We’ve got a spectrum of beliefs in my family, and I learned early on to appreciate people who came from different perspectives, in matters of faith and politics. Some of my cousins are musical, some artistic, most have a quick wit. And everyone has a strong sense of integrity.
On the other side of my family, my dad’s, I’ve got three cousins who were state police officers. They’ve got the toughness I needed to learn in ministry. On my mom’s side, we are all nice, which is great for relating well to others – and then there are those times you’ve got to stand up for yourself or for a key principle.
Every family is different. Ed Bacon, rector of All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, said in a teleconference interview with me that he is one of 60 cousins. He only has one brother, but he learned early on to be part of a bigger group. This prepared him well to be part of a large staff, which he has at All Saints. I saw on Facebook recently a picture of Ed at his mother’s 90th birthday party, together with a number of cousins.
Cousins can also give us a different perspective on our parents. Mennonite pastor Keith Harder found that his cousins gave him new insights into his difficult father. He appreciated his father more after the conversations with his cousins. I loved hearing the memories of my mother that my cousins shared when she died a few years ago.
Who is (or was) your favorite cousin? Why?