I met Peggy when I was about ten years old. Peggy’s daughter and I were in Girl Scout’s together, so Peggy was to me just someone else’s Mom, not someone I, as a child, thought much about. Peggy continued in that role when I started to go to the youth group at Simpson United Methodist Church, in Pullman, WA, where that same daughter also attended. As the years passed and I became more active in the church I learned to know Peggy better, as a person in herself. When I went to college, Peggy became one of my professors. As I began to explore my call to ordained ministry, Peggy was one of the blessed saints in the church who cheered me on. Many years passed. I was ordained and eventually appointed to Moscow First UMC, just eight miles from Pullman. By then Peggy had retired twice, first from her professorship at WSU and then as the director of a community center in Pullman. She began to explore her own call to ministry as a Licensed Local Pastor. I became her mentor in that process. The District Superintendent who asked me to take on that role was aware of the circle Peggy and I had traveled together.
Peggy died in May and in July I attended her memorial service. At that service, as so often happens, I learned more about Peggy than I had known. You see, I knew that Peggy, a white woman, had black children, including my Girl Scout friend. In the 1960’s she married a black man who had five children from a previous relationship. I knew those details and in the naivete of my privileged childhood, it had not occurred to me what a radical act that was. Peggy gave birth to another child. The marriage ended and she raised all of those children: six black kids growing up in a white community in the ‘60’s and 70’s, with a single Mom. At her memorial I learned that she got harassed and criticized both for the marriage itself and for her raising of those children. I learned the children, including my friend, encountered racism. Well, duh, except I was not conscious of it at the time. I knew Peggy was a strong woman, passionate about justice. When Peggy was convinced that something was right she did not give way quickly or easily. Now I understand more fully just how strong she had to be.
I give thanks for Saint Peggy, for the many roles she played in my life. Especially now I give thanks for her witness. Sometimes the saints are people we don’t recognize at the time.