Pondering for Friday August 2, 2019

Today we remember Samuel Ferguson Missionary Bishop for West Africa, 1916

Readings for Samuel Ferguson Missionary Bishop for West Africa, 1916

Sirach 51:13-26  Psalm 119:9-16   2 Peter 1:16-21 John 3:1-15

“First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by human will, but men and women moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”  (2 Peter 1:20 – 21)

I really love these words from 2 Peter.  I have it read at every graduation of our local Education for Ministry closing Eucharist in late May.  It speaks of our seeking God and of God providing.  We have to knock, but the door will be opened.  Samuel Ferguson believed in seeking and learning.

 “Samuel David Ferguson was the first African American bishop in The Episcopal Church accorded the full honors due his position. While there had been other African American bishops before him, Bishop Ferguson was the first to be seated in the House of Bishops, and he took his role in the House with utmost sincerity and integrity, as an example to those around him. From celebrating the opening Eucharist of the 1910 General Convention to attending society events in the South, Bishop Ferguson modeled a dignity and strength that communicated his equal stature as an Episcopal bishop despite the discrimination he faced.”  (From Great Cloud of Witnesses for August 2)

Bishop Ferguson emphasized education first and foremost. “Consistent with his first vocation as a teacher, Ferguson emphasized the importance of education throughout his ministry. He founded schools throughout Liberia, assisted financially by the Women’s Auxiliary [later to be the United Thank Offering (UTO) of The Episcopal Church Women], and his passion for education influenced other parts of West Africa.”   (From Great Cloud of Witnesses for August 2)

My own spiritual inquiries came to me as a result of secular undergraduate studies.  At one point I took philosophy and chemistry during the same period. It was then that I pondered which came first: thought, or atomic structure? I came out on the side of thought and therefore, confirmation of the Great “I AM.” “Ferguson believed that establishing a strong spiritual and educational foundation was the best way for Liberia’s young people to transform society.” (From Great Cloud of Witnesses for August 2) I believe establishing a strong spiritual and educational foundation is the best way for ALL young people to transform not only their society but indeed, the world.

“Bishop Ferguson remained in Liberia for the rest of his life. He died in Monrovia on August 2, 1916.”  (From Great Cloud of Witnesses for August 2)

I like this remembrance of Bishop Ferguson because it makes manifest the truthful saying “give a man a fish and you feed him for the day; teach him to fish and you have fed him for life.”  Teaching, I believe, is the most important gift one person can bestow upon another. “Teacher,” is how Mary Magdalene identified Jesus after he called her name after the resurrection (John 20:16).

I believe the most important vocation in the world is that of teaching.  The men and women who assist in shaping the minds of the future of our planet can’t be over emphasized.  Personally, and currently in America, I don’t think we treat them with the respect they should be accorded in either financial compensation or political clout. While we do hear reports of less than satisfactory teachers occasionally, most are decent, caring, loving and very smart tutors of our young ones and I thank God for them.  Teachers teach us to seek and learn, to knock and to enter.

Let us ponder anew what the Almighty can do (and is doing). John+

One thought on “Pondering for Friday August 2, 2019

  1. I am glad to learn today about Bidhop Ferguson. His focus on education certainly resonates with me, since the role of Teacher was my first vocation, working in four of the five boroughs of New York City. I’ve had the privilege of teaching children, youth, and adults, from day care up to and including graduate students. Although I enjoyed high schoolers the most (and the grade level with which I had the most experience), I have to say that my most poignant and impactful moments closest to my heart and to Christ were my sixth grade classes at Joseph H. Wade Junior High School 117 in the Bronx. The first year I taught there District 9 determined that the feeder elementary school P..S. (Public School) 28 for JHS 117 had become overcrowded and so it was decided that the entire sixth grade was to be moved to JHS 117 since they had the space for them. My first year at JHS 117 was to be a teacher for one of those sixth grade classes.
    Teachers in the NYC school system were represented by a very strong union, the United Federation of Teachers ((UFT). Our contract mandated that no individual teacher could be relegated to teach only one ability level of student (honors kids, average level kids, not so smart kids). Teachers new to a school invariably end up with the not so smart kids. I had no problem with that. I was very upfront with my students. That first year l had the 6C class. The kids in that class knew that they were in the “dummies” class because I flat out asked them what kind of class they were in. The first thing I said to them was, “There are no dummies in this class. All of us were born with different abilities. Some of us can draw or sing or dance beautifully. Some of us can run super fast or bat a ball into the stands. So now you’re a student here with me. You might have been told that you can’t learn anything. Well that idea is now abolished. You are going to learn the same curriculum as Class 6A, the so-called honors class, including the enrichment stuff that they get. The only difference is that we’re going to learn it at a slower pace. It’s my job to make sure that whatever the subject we’re learning , that you end up “getting it”. If you’re not getting it, your job is to let me know so that I can think of a different way of teaching it to you. You don’t have to worry about being insulted or embarrassed in here. From today forward we are family and we’re all going to rise together. Failure with me is not an option”. That year was a challenge for me because I think the students weren’t sure if they could really believe what I was telling them. Can’t say as I blamed them. I’ve worked with some pretty horrendous examples of what passed for a teacher who did the exact opposite of what they should have been doing. These kids were used to being labeled as dummies. Kids will rise to the highest level of what you expect from them. If a teacher thinks a student can’t achieve, the student will conform to that belief. As one of my first “teachers”, Rev. William Houston of Evergreen Baptist Church, used to often quote, “Where there is no vision, the people perish”. I was determined that no kid that year was going to leave my class still thinking that he or she was a dummy. Neither my class nor I were going to perish as teacher and student. I made sure that there were opportunities where my students and I exchanged roles. They were pleasantly surprised to find out that they did possess knowledge and expertise about their own passions and that they could teach others about those passions — even the teacher. Those kids were a joy to teach. Sure, I had lots of moments where I felt that I could have ripped my hair out in frustration. However, if a teacher pushes love and positivity to the max, it’s amazing the results one gets. By the end of that school year, frustrations and all, that Class 6C knew the truth about themselves: No dummies here….Thanks be to God.


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