By Rev. Andrena Ingram
January 4, 2013
Random thought ... well, not really random. I guess I am just thinking about my life, and the passing 'years', not just last year, but the past "years"; and I wish I could find my psych report. I will before the week is out (if I remember), so that I can find the exact quote that psychiatrist used.
A psych report is conducted on you when you begin your entrance process into ministry ... before you even get to seminary. I remember her writing something along the lines of:
"she is a desperately trying to stay alive" ... or words to that effect ... but the tone in which she wrote it, was like, 'here's a woman who has been diagnosed with HIV, domestic violence, sexual abuse, homelessness and addiction -- latching on to something she thinks will keep her alive ... keep her busy ... redeem herself ... a condescending statement, in the way it was written. Like, she's not really gonna stick with it, she's just 'trying to stay alive' ... .
I remembered getting mad and thinking: "Well, who ain't trying to stay alive?"
John Travolta sang it best:
So, her comment, among a few other things set me back for a moment ... had to go back to the drawing board, get right with myself -- and throw myself back in the ring after dealing with some internal issues.
... and it has taken this many years of seminary and now ministry, to think back on that damn psych report, and realize that many of the things she wrote about me, were not that far off the mark. (I wont go into everything, here) ... .
just the "stayin' alive" part.
Because you know what? I WAS trying to stay alive! And I knew that the only place I would find life would be in Christ, living for Christ, and living as Christ would have me live.
From being the "mother of the streets" (as Heidi Neumark would nickname me), because I was always trying to help my sisters on the block, in the middle of the night even, trying to give them a little bit of what 'spirit' and 'hope' I had -- to spending every Wednesday night (along with my son) on cots with a bunch of homeless guys in the fellowship hall of Transfiguration, for more than a year. Never letting them 'see me sweat' (a few of them were fearful) ... and they eventually came to love and trust me ... and my son. (My son and I were talking about this tonight, remembering those nights with the homeless guys -- and how on our last day at Transfiguration, they came to church to see us off and wish us well.
But anyway ... I was trying to 'stay alive,' just not in the way "she meant it". She was just calling it the way she saw it at the time. I was a desperate woman trying to find my way.
And I did. I found my way to Christ. Found my way ON the Way! I did what I needed to do to get where I needed to be.
And then I came to St. Michael's.
And I suppose you are saying: "will she get to what she is trying to say?" ...
Well, back in 2007, when I was first sent to St. Michael's, in the first month of being there, one Sunday, I was amazed and filled with the Holy Spirit, as one of our blind members read a piece of scripture (on braille) "See" I am making all things new. That blew me away, sitting there waiting for my preaching moment ...
... and then there was this singer ... I will just give his initials, (A.R) because I don't want to embarrass him, he is so humble.
When the choir stood up to sing their anthem ... it was "Ain't Got Time to Die". It was AMAZING. First, because I kept looking for the African American man who was singing the song (he wasn't) ... and the words resonated in my spirit -- because in that moment, I realized that: "I ain't got time to die!"
That song has been my favorite for as long as I have been here, because it just speaks to who I am, it even speaks to what that psychiatrist said about me -- but the song, turns her meaning upside down on her head.
"I ain't got time to die!"
"Lord, I keep so busy praising my Jesus,
Do you have time to die?
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Is the Ribbon Enough?
Rev. Andrena Ingram
Reverend Andrena Ingram (also known as "Pastor Andrena" or "Pastor Ingram") has become a strong advocate for those living in the margins, as she once was. She is an activist in the HIV/AIDS arena, herself living openly and unabashedly with the HIV virus for over 22+ years.
Raised in South Jamaica, New York, Reverend Ingram served seven years of active duty in the U.S. Army. She would later move to the South Bronx, where she attended Transfiguration Lutheran Church with Pastor Heidi Neumark as her pastor and mentor -- empowering her to rise up out of herself and her life challenges, which seemed to her, at the time, insurmountable.
Reverend Ingram is a graduate of the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, with a Master of Divinity. She has been the pastor of St. Michael's Lutheran Church on Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia, Pa., for the past four years.
Reverend Ingram can frequently be found speaking about HIV/AIDS, encouraging everyone "to know your status, get tested, and be informed." Silence = Death.
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