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M3daas3, part 2 (pronounced 'me-daa-si')

I remember calling All Saints a couple of times that day and left a voicemail. But I didn’t get a callback. And so, on Sunday, I wore my color and rode the train to All Saints with my friend. For some strange reason, we missed our North Avenue stop and so we had to walk back to the church. Service had already started when we arrived, and to my utter horror, a woman was celebrating the Eucharist. I couldn’t believe my eyes.


Yes - I had, at that time, heard of women clergy when I was in Ghana, but I had never seen one. Fortunately, the last pew was empty, so I sank into that pew and watched as the service rolled on. I don’t remember paying attention to anything except for the woman celebrating the Eucharist. I kept asking myself if I should participate in the consecrated Bread and Wine. The ushers started at the front of the sanctuary and worked their way back. It was my fervent wish that they didn’t get to my turn. But after pew by pew, these ushers made their way to the back - where I sat.


They didn’t know what I was dealing with or the theological battle that was waging within me. Although a part of me wanted to simply run out of the sanctuary, a part wanted to hold on and see what the Lord would do. I stayed put in my pew and when it finally got to my turn to walk down the aisle and receive Communion, I chose one of the four stations where I could receive Communion; in fact, I went straight to the female priest and received the Communion from her. To Beth, M3daas3 - thank you for opening my eyes to the possibility that lies in inclusivity.


After worship, I introduced myself to the Rector. He was surprised to find out that an Anglican priest simply walked into his church on that day. He welcomed me and then asked that I make an appointment to see him. So I called his office on Monday and made an appointment to see him two days later.


That Wednesday, I picked up the same train to North Avenue - I didn’t miss my stop. I went to see Geoffrey with all the documents that confirmed that I was a priest. This time, I arrived a little early, so I had the chance to tour the Parish House. One of my earlier surprises was that I could have free coffee, so this time, I got myself a cup of coffee with so much milk. It felt really good. I waited for Geoffrey while I sipped on my coffee, and he eventually came out and invited me to his office. It was a hearty meeting, filled with laughter. It felt as if I had known him forever. At the tail end of our conversation, he asked me if I wanted a job and I responded with a hearty, "Yes."


He asked that I come to the church early next Sunday morning so he could introduce me. After our meeting, he had one of the staff members show me my new office - I had never had an office before. My office was beautiful, complete with a computer and a phone. "Luxury items," I said to myself. "How lucky I am."


On Sunday, I showed up early but with no vestments. I was given one, and I used it for a very long time. During the introduction, Geoffrey told the congregation, "A few months ago, we sang O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. And now, Emmanuel is here. Be careful what you wish for." Everyone burst out laughing. And this is when a ministry began, and a journey that has been both challenging, life-transforming, and eye-opening.

As I have said on a previous occasion, I didn’t know why Geoffrey hired me. I haven’t had the chance to ask him, but I think this is the time for me to ask him why he took a chance on an African priest with an accent.


All Saints was a blessing in so many ways that it would be difficult for me to count them all. Geoffrey was a great mentor and priest, and I learned so much from him. His goal was to mentor me to be able to serve any parish in the Episcopal Church. 


A few weeks into my time at All Saints, Geoffrey said to me, "Emmanuel, I don’t think Mercer University School of Theology is the best place for an Episcopal priest. There’s another school here in Atlanta, which I would highly recommend that you look into and apply." The school he was referring to is Emory University.


Based on his advice, I applied to Emory University and was accepted - with a full tuition scholarship. But because he was out of town on sabbatical, Reverend Ted Hackett, who was a Professor and the Director of the Anglican Studies at Candler School of Theology, secured the living expenses portion of the immigration requirement for me to enroll at Emory University. But then I had to leave All Saints to St. Michael and All Angels, Stone Mountain, GA. To Ted and Paul, who was the Rector at St. Michael and All Angels, M3daas3.


What seemed to be a simple arrangement caused a huge uproar at All Saints. The raging question was, "Why should Emmanuel leave All Saints?" Upon Geoffrey’s return, he raised the necessary funds to satisfy Emory University, so now I could return to All Saints. That was a pure moment of joy for me and the faithful people of All Saints. To Geoffrey and All Saints parishioners, M3daas3.


I once wrote to you all about a parishioner at All Saints, Bruce. He was the head verger and was one dedicated and faithful parishioner. I was so impressed by his passion for the ministry that he held. One day, I came to learn that he was gay. How surprising to me!! He wasn’t the only gay but there are lots of gays and lesbians at All Saints. I suddenly felt thrust into a whole new theological dilemma - how does this new-found information square up with my traditional African beliefs about homosexuality? In fact, how do my conservative-evangelical beliefs hold up in the face of this new reality?


That was a huge issue for me - it was a lot more than I could chew. But thankfully, people like Bruce, Nedra, and Rebecca - two of my daughter Frances’ godparents - helped me to understand what it meant to live under grace. More than that, they helped open my eyes to what human dignity was all about.


Indeed, the Baptismal Covenant in the Book of Common Prayer invites us to respect the dignity of every human being. But I differ - respect doesn’t cut it for me. I would’ve wished that the framers of the Prayer Book had used the word honor instead. Honor appears more divine and encapsulates every responsibility we owe all people. To Bruce, Nedra, and Rebecca, I say M3daas3.


All too soon, my time at All Saints came to an end. The three years had been incredible, powerful, life-transforming, a culture shock, and a learning curve for me. The experience was more than what I bargained or hoped for. It was such a blessing, O my God, the blessing was incalculable.


There’s no way that I can write a story of my faith journey as a priest without crediting Geoffrey and the faithful parishioners of All Saints for the compassionate way in which they welcomed me and nurtured me into becoming the priest and pastor I am today. Again, to the people of All Saints, I say, M3daas3.


Manny+


(M3daas3 means "Thank You" in my native dialect. This thank-you tour of sorts is meant to highlight pivotal moments and people in my life and to give thanks for all those who, by the grace of God, made it happen for me. This is part 2 of a possible four-part series (part one is here) and the photo accompanying this one is of Monique, myself, and Geoffrey at Havi's baptism. It turns out that I have more than to write than I originally thought!)

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