Today marks a shift in my life and ministry.
Hello, Reverend Donna O!
Goodbye, Reverend Mother Runner…
Why the change?
Well, for one, in this season in my life and ministry, I am being intentional about how I am represented in the world and in this digital space. How we show up matters and how we are named also matters. Although I am affectionately known by Reverend Mother Runner by many, I have been, I am and I will be known by Reverend Donna Owusu-Ansah for far longer. I needed to make this change some time ago, but it took a wise mentor to help me see what was right in front of me. I confess, I was tempted to use my entire name in the website address—all fifteen letters—but who wants to type all that? Reverend Donna O it is!
Secondly, while running will always be a big part of my life, as motherhood and ministry amp up, my mileage has decreased significantly. These days in between shuttling the girls to dance and spending time in preparation to preach, I’m just trying to create a consistent workout schedule so I can be physically, emotionally, and spiritually healthy enough to care for myself, care for my family, and care for the people God has entrusted to my care. By dropping the “Runner” I take the limits off the various ways I will incorporate fitness and health into my life.
All that said, welcome to www.reverenddonnao.com. If you’ve been hanging out with me for a while, you’ll notice a few changes, namely that the motherhood, marriage, ministry, and mile image tabs have been removed. Don’t fret! I’ll be incorporating more images into blog posts. And ff you’re a first time visitor, I hope you are blessed by the content and will consider leaving a comment or two or three.
As Israel Houghton sings, “It’s a new season! It’s a new day! A fresh anointing is coming my way…” It’s a new season! Can you feel it? What newness is on the horizon for you and how are you preparing for it?
I remember June 17, 2015 like it was yesterday. News spread across the nation that a white supremacist opened fired as the faithful folks of Emanuel African Methodist Church (AME) in Charleston, South Carolina gathered for mid-week prayer—as they always had. Nine were killed. Three survived. The nation was left rocking and reeling from the news that one of the nations oldest Black churches and a beacon for justice and love was infiltrated by hate.
I was rocking and reeling. As an ordained clergy person actively involved in church life and worship, I cried out to God, lamenting the loss of life and questioning the rise of white supremacy in America and the complete disregard of sacred spaces. When I was growing up, houses of worship, like schools, used to be safe and holy ground. Now it is not uncommon to hear of synagogues being burned, mosques being bombed, and churches and gurdwaras being sites for mass shootings.
During worship one Sunday, while sitting in the pulpit, an unknown and unkempt white man entered the sanctuary of our predominantly African-American congregation and came barreling down the center aisle. Fear rose up within me. In that moment, I thought about the Charleston Nine—the Reverend Clementa Pinckney, Cynthia Hurd, Sharon Coleman-Singleton, Tywanza Sanders, Myra Thompson, Ethel Lee Lance, DePayne Middleton Doctor, Susie Jackson, and the Reverend Daniel L. Simmons Sr.—whose lives were taken as they gathered to pray and praise God. I also silently prayed and pleaded with God for the safety of my husband, daughters, and church family.
I was reminded of this experience during my interview with Rose Simmons, the daughter of the late Reverend Daniel L. Simmons, Sr. who was tragically killed in the shooting. Simmons is one of many surviving family members and survivors featured in Emmanuel, a documentary centered around hate, healing and forgiveness in the aftermath of the shooting in Charleston. In our conversation, Simmons spoke about the widespread grief that grew out of this moment—grief that was dormant in me and is likely still dormant in others across the nation. A gracious and kind soul, when offered condolences on the loss of her father, Simmons extended condolences back with the recognition that Charleston happened to all of us.
Simmons is full of surprises. In describing the moments after hearing of her father’s death, she spoke of an overwhelming sense of peace and joy that came from the Holy Spirit. I was ready to talk about grief, but instead had a powerful conversation on the beauty of Reverend Simmons’ life, the mantle to preserve his legacy, and the importance of healing and forgiveness in a nation divided. It is clear, that Simmons loves her father and is carrying on the work that her father began, work that God has called and strengthened her to do.
But don’t take my word for it; Listen to the full audio of the interview then scroll down to view the trailer for this pivotal documentary. And don't miss your opportunity to see Emanuel, in theaters on June 17th and 19th.
Directed by Brian Ivie and Executive Produced by Stephen Curry and Viola Davis, Emmanuel gives voice to survivors and surviving family members and demonstrates the power of faith and forgiveness. Proceeds from the film will go to the survivors and their family members. Read more about the film here.
I turned forty-three today.
It’s been a beautifully ordinary day starting with birthday blessings from my Love, an off-key serenade from my girls and a text message from my sister that set off a series of birthday text messages and calls wishing me well. Even though it was a fairly routine day—ahem, four hour staff meeting—for some reason I am filled with anticipation and excitement. The word according to Ini Kamoze is echoing in my spirit:
I’m steppin’ it hotter this year!
I’m steppin’ it hotter this year!
Can you feel it?
Can you feel it?
Mark my words...this year is going to be a game changer! God is up to something. I have been immersed in ministry saturated with creativity and imagination. My heart and mind are filled with possibilities which excites me all the more because God can do exceedingly, abundantly above all I can ask, think or imagine. I have Holy Spirit fire guiding my steps! I’m steppin’ in hotter this year!
Edit: I wrote the post above while on New Jersey Transit heading into to be with hubby as he was honored by the National Association of Black Accountants New York Chapter. In his acceptance speech he mentioned the dilemma of the event falling on my birthday and how gracious my “yes” was in supporting him. After dismounting the stage, the MC for the evening comedian Chuck Nice had over 200 Black Accountants sing Happy Birthday to me! I am steppin’ in hotter this year!
Social media is a wonderful tool, but it can be deceptive. Similar to a resume, our Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter feeds are filled with highlights and successes. These digital spaces are carefully curated galleries of professional life with accolades and opportunities, motherhood with well mannered, active and cute as a button children, marriage with regularly scheduled date nights and picture perfect smiles, and home life with delicious and Epicurus worthy plates fixed after a full day of work. What we don’t often see in these spaces are our perceived failures, all the moments when we raise our voices at our children because they are acting a fool, disagreements with our spouses, the fourth night in a row of eating pizza for dinner in a week and more.
I often laugh when I see people and they mention my wonderfully put together life especially since I am always tired/fatigued/exhausted and some days struggle to keep it all together. They’ve subscribed to my carefully curated life so what else would they think? Truth be told, I realized that I had gotten to a place where I had subscribed to my carefully curated life leaving little room for mistakes.
Yesterday was such a day. It was the rehearsal for the girls’ dance recital this weekend. I planned well. On Sunday night I washed and blow dried their long, thick hair so I’d be ready to quickly make their ballerina buns. I picked them up early from school to avoid traffic and even packed snacks. We arrived to the campus early and got a prime parking spot. Without feeling rushed, I removed the bags I packed that contained everything we needed. So I thought. (At this point, all of this is adding to my mom-of-the-year award.) As I removed their school clothes and put their shiny, sparkly costumes on in the bathroom I realized I forgot to pack their shoes. THE SHOES!!! And then I became the mom who forgot tap and jazz shoes to dance recital rehearsal. Really, how can you dance without dancing shoes?
The next two hours was filled with me being so embarrassed that I forgot something so essential, explaining the shoe situation more times than I can count, being chided by my Big Girl because she had to wear sneakers on stage for rehearsal, and thanking God because a friend had an extra pair of tap shoes for Baby Girl to wear. But you know what? Once I separated my actual life from my own well put together timeline, I was free. Life itself is not carefully curated. It is messy and complicated with moments that don’t make the highlight reel, but those moments don’t take away from how fierce, dope, and wonderful we are. Besides, taking barefoot dance photos and dancing in sneakers isn’t the end of the world!