September 27, 2016
In a recent conversation with Rev. Kelle Brown, Plymouth’s Minister of Worship and Spiritual Life, she shared more about her life and faith…
Please share with us some of your faith background and how you were called to ministry.
I grew up in church. My happiest memories are attending church with my grandparents. Both of them were very involved in the church, and I learned as a child that my voice was valuable and needed. I preached my first sermon at 16, and was very involved in ministry throughout my life. My initial faith background was as a Baptist, and though I found my deep sense of hope and grace there, I found much of who I am today in a United Church of Christ church in Atlanta while attending Spelman College. The Rev. Dr. Flora Wilson Bridges was a professor at Spelman, and invited me to be the Minister of Music. She was the first African American woman I had ever seen in a senior pastor role, and she preached inclusion, equity and grace for all people. It was during this experience that I learned to take myself seriously, and that Progressive Christianity was an essential and significant part of my call. Essentially, my vocation was begun in my social location as an African American woman, and propelled by my longing to share the gospel with those I was sure were not welcomed to the table. I continue to develop my sense of call daily, looking for the growing edges to remain open to the Spirit of God.
Where do you consider ‘home’?
As I preached in a recent sermon recalling the events of September 11, home is wherever my daughter, Indigo, is! Technically, my home is Columbus, Georgia, which I proudly claim.
Tell us about your credentials and by that I mean formal education and also life’s education that prepare you to be here…now.
I graduated from Spelman College with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. Later, I attended Seattle University School of Theology and Ministry, and will graduate with my Doctorate of Ministry from San Francisco Theological Seminary. Beyond school, I bring my life’s experiences of being an ally to vulnerable populations, the experience of having endured and overcome oppression, all while cultivating my curiosity and enormous sense of wonder.
When you are ministering outside of your work at Plymouth, how do you enjoy spending your free time?
Free time… what a lovely unicorn she is! I love watching movies, drawing, sewing and cooking. A good deal of my free time is spent enjoying the beautiful views of Seattle and writing a fictional book on which I’ve been working.
Who have you been most inspired by?
My daughter Indigo, is one of the wisest and most gifted people I know. I have never been a hierarchical parent, meaning I was never concerned with being in “control” of her. I honor all of who she is, and she is my daughter, my sister and my friend. I believe parenting in this way allowed Indigo to discover her voice because she knows I take her seriously. In addition, my grandmother Dorothy Price, is surely one of my greatest inspirations. I don’t think she has ever known how beautiful and intelligent and life-giving she is, and she inspires me every day! Some of my she-roes are Fannie Lou Hamer and Ella Baker. Both women fought for justice and knew that doing so meant risking their own well-being. I am inspired by Thich Nhat Hanh and his sense of mindfulness in all things, the poetry of Rumi and Hafiz and the mind of Anais Nin.
Which Bible story is your favorite? Why?
If I had to pick one, because there are many, I am drawn to the story of the woman at the well from the gospel of John. Many people assume that she is sinful and unworthy. However, Jesus approaches her with generosity and talks about theology with her. He offers her living water, for I contend Jesus knew that she was far from satisfied in many ways. When he shared her deepest parts of her life, I believe he did this to show that she was known rather than to judge her life, for after their engagement, she ran to share the good news! Engaging people authentically is always “the gospel” for those who have been marginalized and discriminated against to find utter acceptance and love.
What is your favorite song to listen to and to sing?
One of my favorite songs in the world to sing and listen to is A Change Is Gonna Come by Sam Cooke. I love it because no matter the era, the poignant and profound depth of meaning still resonates.
Favorite all time movie?
The Color Purple is hands-down my favorite movie of all time. Based on Alice Walker’s phenomenal and exquisite book, the movie is one that I watch regularly for inspiration and grounding. It reminds me of all the ways we discover God and ourselves in the people around us, and how we are always connected to one another, even those who are a continent away. Love is powerful.