Wednesday, July 11, 2018


Ruthie Mattox

Photo by Dan Collison

On Sunday, I became the first holder of the Ruthie Mattox chair of preaching at 1st Covenant Church in Minneapolis. It is really an honor, both because of the church and because of Ruthie.

1st Covenant is a remarkable place. It has gone through a series of transitions, and it is now thriving as something dynamic and open and Christian. Much of that has to do with the leadership of Dan and Holly Collison, but the soul of the church extends beyond them.

Ruthie is someone who has been through all of those transitions. She first came to that church when she was 3, which was 72 years ago. Since then, she has been the person who makes churches work-- the one who serves on committee and makes sure the tables are set up for the lunch and looks after kids and worries about who is not there. My whole life, I have counted on people like her to keep things going, and rarely even thought about it.

Her vocation-- and it was a vocation, in the best sense-- was nursing, and she excelled at that in a variety of situations. All of them, though, involved healing and love.  Ruthie did not endow the chair with money; rather, she endowed this church with her whole being.

Nursing is like criminal law in that much of it is managing tragedy. But in my work, tragedy is often seen at a certain remove;  sometimes it is just reading letters from prison. Ruthie held babies who were dying. That is a quantum of tragedy I could not bear for long.

How lucky am I, to have my name associated with this church and this person?

Working around health care, I daily see the work of people like Ruthie Mattox. The phrase, "unsung hero," is shopworn but it truly describes what nurses do. Thank you for sharing Ms. Mattox's story. The next time I'm inclined to complain about some small annoyance in my life, I will try to remember her example.
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