I met Uchenna at an ESMHE (Episcopal Society for Ministry in Higher Education) conference in the summer of 2000 in
The following December Uchenna and I were roommates at yet another National Gathering of college students (NAT GAT) and became reacquainted, in fact, truly began a great friendship that has meant a lot to both of us the last 7 years. We discovered that despite obvious differences in our geographic and cultural upbringing - she a Nigerian/American woman raised in Miami & Philadelphia, and me a Midwestern to the bone, of Swedish/English/American heritage - we had many similar family, life and church experiences that took place at a very similar pace and timeframe. As we learned more about one another, we recognized ourselves and in each other - an almost, soul-mate recognition led us to tease friends - calling ourselves twins.
We decided to stay in touch, and specifically to be prayer partners for one another. For the next year or so we had semi-regular Tuesday night phone calls/check-in. (Uchenna was living in
We managed to see each other periodically the first few years - me visiting Chicago, Uchenna visiting the twin cities and
Uchenna entered graduate school a year before I began seminary. We we both students, and as long distance friendships can go, there were long periods of time when we didn't talk with one another -- too many other commitments had long taken the place of our regular chats - though those were a great support to both of us at a time in our lives that we needed it. As our various relationships with other people ebbed and flowed, this friendship, even though relying on phone calls that were fewer and farther between continued to be strong. Uchenna is someone I will always be friends with, and always be glad to know.
I was proud to have her stand with priests, friends and family as a presenter at my ordination to the priesthood in January - and I was proud to be a participant in her wedding this last weekend. As the hours drew closer toward the ceremony that would celebrate her commitment to love honor and be loved and honored by the man she is creating a new family with, my joy at finally meeting her mother, and seeing her transition into this new station in life was overwhelming. Uchenna's friends and family, danced and sang, shouted and rejoiced in traditional American and Nigerian ways throughout the wedding weekend.
As I spoke with various friend groups of the bride and groom- those who had known them in high school, or college or grad school - I realized that I did not fall into any of these categories. Uchenna and I never lived in the same place - never shared a day to day common experience of being in class together, or working together. Our friendship was born out of the workings of the national offices of the Episcopal Church in New York City: the idea that Episcopalians from around the country should get to know each other, that we should learn each others stories, and live into our commonalities and differences. Because ultimately, what we share is a faith and a practice of that faith that connects us to one another.
Anglicans are connected through centuries of worship, conversation, and hope that we can do good in the world that we have been given to live in. Geography, culture, ethnicity, gender, economics, sexuality, time, interest... the barriers are easy to spot, to claim, to allow to divide us. But in seeing each other, and in being committed to friendship and a common cause, we can grow infinitely in our relationships with one another and with God.
I am so thankful to know Uchenna, and I am so thankful to be known by her. Thank you Episcopal Church - and the office for Young Adult Ministries for bringing Uchenna and I together in friendship in family and in the ministry of growing together in Christ and community. Amen.