That may sound like competing characteristics, but the best meaning of both words is found in the life of Dr. Linda McCoy who died this week. Her ministry started in the mid-1970's when Linda was a high school French teacher and she and her husband, Mike, began attending St. Luke's. The preaching of Dr. Carver McGriff and the love and power of the community of St. Luke's won Linda over in a way that didn't just lead her to become a member but also respond to a call to full-time ministry.
Onto Christian Theological Seminary she went, then ordination, and soon after she was appointed to the pastoral staff of the burgeoning St. Luke's congregation. Linda helped start the women's ensemble, New Song. She began shepherding groups across the city of Indianapolis, to help the many people coming into St. Luke's find connection and community, and Linda discovered a gift for teaching and preaching.
In 1993, Linda pursued a Doctor of Ministry degree at United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio. My brother-in-law happened to be in that same group. They studied under Dr. Leonard Sweet and were exposed to some of the best ministry models in the nation. During this season of life, Linda had a vision to start a community of faith for people hurt or turned off by church. It happened literally in a dream while flying to Denver. She shared this with her new senior minister, Dr. Kent Millard, who supported Linda's dream. The result of this inspiration became: The Garden.
In October 1995, Linda launched St. Luke's first satellite campus in The Beef and Boards theater. A high-quality band offered secular music with a spiritual twist, that along with Linda's impactful communication led to immediate growth. Before long, The Garden added services from one, to two, to three. Soon after they added a new location at what is now the Black Iris venue. Within their first decade they had five services averaging 700 in attendance. Linda and Mike were living the dream. As Linda wrote in her book, Planting a Garden, "We wanted to create a worship service in which there was no distinction between insiders and outsiders, between members and nonmembers." They wanted everyone to know they belonged.
After her retirement in 2015, Linda had more time to enjoy her favorite occupation, being grandma to Maddie, daughter of Linda's daughter, Erin. The love of her life, Mike, passed away last fall, who like Linda, died too soon. But their legacy as a couple and in ministry will carry on. And that brings me back to my comment on grit and grace.
Grace was what Linda was all about. She wanted to lead a community where people knew they were accepted and loved by God, regardless of...finish that as you will. But do not think that meant Linda was timid or mild. She was a woman of conviction and authority. She crossed barriers as a woman in ministry and could hold her own in any group. She stood up for those who had no one to stand for them. She had grit.
After her retirement Linda and I enjoyed a friendship disconnected from any professional relationship. We went to lunch every few months just to keep up and be of support to each other. I greatly enjoyed those times and will miss them. I came to respect Linda as a supportive, loving, caring colleague and friend. Her Celebration of Life Service will be, May 6 at 10:00 in Robertson Chapel, where her ministry life began, and it will be conducted by her former St. Luke's colleague, Rev. Cindy Bates.
Thanks, Linda, for the very genuine way you always asked me over lunch each time, "How are you doing, Rob, and I really mean it?" Let me close with the last sentence from her book I referenced above, "Our past has been glorious, and I pray that our future will be filled with the same glory. I know God will be guiding us into a new future. I pray that we will have the courage to follow."
See you Sunday,