My grandpa is dying. Last night, we got home from visiting him while he is still doing well enough to interact with us. My family originates from Reading, Michigan and while I love living in California, there is something nostalgic about visiting the old homestead. Because we were there over Memorial Day, we went to the Moscow Plains cemetery where legacies of Denning’s (my maiden name) were buried, and my grandfather will soon rest in peace. We laid flowers on the graves of my great-great-grandfather and mother and wandered around, hearing stories of who such and such was and what they did from my great-uncle Gene. As we meandered back and forth, my youngest son got tired and bored pretty quickly, so my husband took him back to the car to play. But my oldest son, who will be seven in a few weeks, stuck it out with me, and we walked around, hand in hand, through the rows and rows of tombstones. At one point, I looked down at him as he was quietly admiring an ornate headstone and I had a flashback of myself as a child, wandering that same cemetery, seeing those same headstones, hand in hand with my own family. I remember feeling this weird sense of fascination with my history. Back then, I wondered where I came from and if I would be buried there someday too. This week, I felt a sense of peace there, amongst those old headstones and no matter how long I’m gone, the Moscow Plains cemetery centers me.
“In bringing up children we help situate them in their own story by telling the stories of the family they belong to, narrating the lives of the parents, grandparents, and their early years, as well as the stories of the community in which they are living. At its best this understanding of a past is a helpful way of encouraging growth and development into the future; it expresses that life is a changing unfolding story in which we all play our part. It teaches the importance of contextualizing life; who we are is shaped by where we come from and who we come from, not in a way that necessarily binds us but in a way that affects us.”
In her book What Clergy Do: Especially When it Looks Like Nothing, Emma Percy makes significant parallels between parish ministry and motherhood, citing that neither role can be formulaic, but shared wisdom and shared language can be of some help. Percy comes from Parish ministry, so she speaks with rich authenticity and candor about the role of being a parish priest. Percy, and her husband Martyn, now work in higher education where she is the Welfare Dean and Chaplain for Trinity College at the University of Oxford. Throughout the eight chapters in the book, Percy draws on both her role as a mother, as well as a priest, encouraging both to think about themselves in relation to three main areas: as a labourer, sustaining life and making things; as a practice shaped by particular goals and demands, and as an “ordinary good enough mother” or one who is consistent in meeting the needs of the Church and the child.
I found her take on both mothering and parish ministry quite refreshing, especially in light of my own work in both arenas. This week in particular, I felt called to the work of the parish but moreso the unique nature of the work of parenting. In this book, I felt compelled to help myself and my sons remember the good work of vocational ministry that is contextual to each situation and each family. My sons, while they are Rouggly’s, are also Denning’s, and it is important for them to understand both sides to themselves. In the same way, the Church is God’s bride, but it’s situated in a particular context and needs to understand both God and the community. When it comes down to it, it’s the power of community that aids both. The Church is there for the betterment of the community, but it is made up of a broken group of people who are strung together to form a network of community. The family is a more insular community, but is part of a large generational lineage that came before and will come after.
Wandering the cemetery this week, holding hands with my son, I wondered if he would remember these names, these headstones, these graves. Would he remember my papa, his great-papa? Would he remember the Denning’s who came before him? Would he know that he is from a lineage of loving and dedicated men and women on both sides of his family? Would he understand that while he is born and raised a Californian, he has one foot in Michigan and one foot in Missouri where his dad’s family is from? Will he see that he has strong farmers’ hands and a heart in the shape of a tractor? While I can’t say for certain he will know those things, I will mother him in a way that reminds him of who he is. I will mother him in way that situates him in the context of a familial community and a church community that loves him and will do anything for him. And any time he forgets, a good, long walk around the Moscow Plains cemetery ought to do the trick.
 Emma Percy, What Clergy Do: Especially When it Looks Like Nothing (SPCK Publishing: London, UK, 2014), 53.
 Ibid., 3.
“Emma Percy: Welfare Dean and Chaplain,” Profiles, Trinity College of University of Oxford, accessed May 30, 2019, https://www.trinity.ox.ac.uk/people/profiles/emma-percy-2/
 Emma Percy, What Clergy Do: Especially When it Looks Like Nothing (SPCK Publishing: London, UK, 2014), 24.
 Ibid., 25.
 Ibid., 27.