Leontine Kelly is a hero of mine. She was the second woman, and the first African-American woman, to be elected to be a bishop by the United Methodist Church, or any mainline denomination, for that matter.
Her father, who also was a Methodist preacher, was assigned to an inner-city church in Cincinnati, Ohio when she was a little girl. It had been a white church, but the neighborhood had changed. It then became mostly African-American.
Bishop Kelly said that it was an awe-inspiring Gothic structure with stained glass windows and a huge crystal chandelier. The parsonage was just as inspiring. Each child had their own bedroom, and there was a huge cellar that had not been opened for many, many years. One day she and her brothers went into the cellar exploring and happened upon a hidden passage that led to a tunnel. She ran to find her father to tell him, and he joined them in their exploration.
They found that the tunnel ran under the church and then led off toward the Ohio River, which flowed just five blocks away. Around the dinner table that night, Bishop Kelly’s father explained in reverent tones that the tunnels had been a part of the Underground Railroad that helped to smuggle slaves escaping to freedom. Then he said to them, “Children, I want you to remember, as long as you live, that the greatness of this church is not this huge Gothic building, but those tunnels. We are on sacred ground because these people risked their lives to do something great for God and good for our people.”
Years later, Bishop Kelly said, “That’s exactly what God calls us all to do: something great for God and good for other people.” Those words inspired her to go on to become an historic figure in the Church.
What might they inspire YOU to do?