Listen to Learn:
Amy Meaux was born in Beaufort, SC. Her mother was a Hospice and Home Health nurse and her father a food scientist who worked in the packing industry. She graduated from Mandeville High School in Mandeville Louisiana and earned a BA in Liberal Arts from The Louisiana Scholars' College at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, LA. She received a Master of Divinity from Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, TX.
Prior to seminary, she served two Episcopal schools in Louisiana. After seminary, she has served Episcopal churches in New Orleans, Dallas, and Kentucky. She is presently serving as the Reverend of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Little Rock.
She enjoys knitting and reading, but her passion is food for the hungry, especially children.
Up In Your Business is a Radio Show by FlagandBanner.com
[00:00:09] GM: Welcome to Up In Your Business with Kerry McCoy, a production of flagandbanner.com. Through storytelling and conversational interviews, this weekly radio show and podcast offers listeners an insider's view into the commonalities of successful people and the ups and downs of risk taking. Connect with Kerry through her candid, funny, informative and always encouraging weekly blog. And now it's time for Kerry McCoy to get all Up In Your Business.
[00:00:33] KM: Thank you, son, Gray. So today, on Up In Your Business with Kerry McCoy, I have the great pleasure of interviewing Ms. Amy Dafler Meaux, the newly appointed 21st Dean and Director of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Downtown Little Rock, Arkansas. Trinity Episcopal is the seat of the diocese bishop and on the national register of historic places. Having been built in 1884 by the Right Reverend Henry Pierce who lobbied for donations and mortgaged his home to erect the cathedral and later became the first diocesan bishop of Arkansas.
So with all that history said, petite, five-foot, two-inch, Dean Amy Meaux has some big shoes to fill, and fill she does. Meaux is making history herself by being Trinity Episcopal Cathedral's first female dean in its 136 year history. In addition, Mother Meaux, if I may call her that, is a wife, mother of three. And because of her innate love of children, has a resume full of service work with youths, toddlers and babies. It is my great pleasure to welcome to the table the master of divinity and first female dean and rector of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, the Reverend Amy Defler Meaux. If the deans are called fathers –
[00:01:59] AM: I know.
[00:02:00] KM: Are the women called mothers?
[00:02:02] AM: They are. They are. I have always said though that my children have the privilege of calling me mother. So actually for the first time of my life I have a title I like, which is dean. Clark Tucker started calling me Dean Meaux and I was like, “I like that.” So Dean Amy works, or just Amy. I had a parishioner in Dallas used to call me Father Amy. That works. It kind of breaks it open, doesn't it?
[00:02:30] KM: Yeah. Your last name is pronounced Meaux, but to see it written is beautiful. It's M-A-U-X.
[00:02:38] AM: Close. M-E-A-U-X.
[00:02:39] KM: You're right. That's what I wrote. But we just talked about my dyslexia right before I came on. I actually wrote M-A-U-X.
[00:02:45] AM: People forget the E. That’s so common. It happens all the time.
[00:02:48] KM: Really?
[00:02:48] AM: Mm-hmm.
[00:02:49] KM: So many vowels, M-A-E-U-X, and X. I mean, that's like a scrabble game bonanza.
[00:02:56] AM: Yeah. Yeah. Oh yeah, you could win scrabble with that.
[00:02:57] KM: Except for you can't use proper nouns.
[00:02:59] AM: No. And it's a city in France.
[00:03:01] KM: Oh. So is your husband French?
[00:03:05] AM: Southern Louisiana French. So my husband's grandfather came over from France.
[00:03:11] KM: Do you meet him in New Orleans?
[00:03:12] AM: My husband, yes. I did.
[00:03:14] KM: Let's start at the beginning. You moved a lot as a child and as a young adult. You have lived in South Carolina, North Carolina, New Orleans we just talked about, Austin, Dallas, Kentucky and now Arkansas.
[00:03:29] AM: We finally made it home.
[00:03:30] KM: Why is this home?
[00:03:32] AM: Oh, it feels like home.
[00:03:33] KM: Really?
[00:03:34] AM: Mm-hmm.
[00:03:34] KM: But it's not really.
[00:03:35] AM: We don't have any ties here.
[00:03:36] KM: Where were you born?
[00:03:37] AM: Beaufort, South Carolina.
[00:03:40] KM: And it sounds like you're torturing your children. Were they all born in different states?
[00:03:48] AM: They were all, yes. Our daughter who's 16 is a native – She's the only one in the whole family who's a native New Orleanian in our little core of five. And we've always said that it'll be her obituary that says her name, birth dates, it'll say native New Orleanian. Lived here six months. Lived all over the country after that, but they'll claim her.
[00:04:12] KM: So where are the other children born?
[00:04:15] AM: Jacob was born in Dallas and our youngest was born in Lexington, Kentucky.
[00:04:21] KM: When did you know you wanted to become a priest? Was there a singular event or had you been ruminating on it for a while because you have a BA in liberal arts. I read where you were going to go to school to be a lawyer, I think I read. And then all of a sudden now you've got a master's in divinity. Was there something that happened or did you really always kind of think about it?
[00:04:42] AM: I always wanted to be a priest. My closest friends are tired of hearing this story, but –
[00:04:47] KM: Oh, I’ve never heard it.
[00:04:48] AM: Also, I'll tell you. Thank you for being interested. I grew up, I’m an only child and grew up spending my summers with my grandparents. And my paternal grandfather, Grandpa Joe, went to church every Sunday. He was the treasurer of his church. This was back in the day when you could – The treasurer could actually take the money home and make the deposit and then take it to the bank the next day. So my time spent with him in the summer was going to church with him. He was teaching me ministry as a non-ordained person unintentionally, really.
So when I was about eight years old, we went to a Lutheran ordination. I grew up Lutheran. And the minister – I don't know if you've ever been to an ordination, but there's all this really fancy stuff with the clothes and the music. I thought to myself, “I don't know what this guy has going on, but I like it.” And that was the seed, right? That's how God got me. I started talking from that age about that I wanted to be.
[00:05:54] KM: Eight years old.
[00:05:55] AM: When I wanted to be a minister.
[00:05:56] KM: Well, it is theater and you are counting money in the afternoons. Those are two pretty good things.
[00:06:01] AM: Right. There’re a lot of like positives as a kid. You're like nothing really bad here. Plus everybody at church is nice. I mean, on Sundays. So I talked about it forever. I never had anybody tell me no, which is really unusual. In the Episcopal Church, they only started ordaining women in 1976. I was born in 1974. So there should have been a lot of people to tell me no especially in the south. South spin behind. Everybody else ordaining women, but no one ever did. And which to me is a miracle.
So I got to college and told everybody I was getting a liberal arts degree to get me ready to go to seminary. If I could have skipped college, I would have. If I thought I could just go straight to the master's divinity piece, but you got to get the BA to get the MDiv. But while I was in college, I really lost my faith. It was really the first time my faith had ever been tested in any significant way, and it wasn't like anything dramatic happened. It was just I stopped going to church. It didn't have any – It just didn't really have any meaning. I think what happened was I lost my sense of duty and obligation.
And so my junior year, I broke up with a boyfriend. He broke my heart. And my closest friend and my oldest friend who was my college roommate, she was applying to go abroad to do a year in Ireland, in Northern Ireland, and she said, “Why don't you just apply? You just come with me and just get a break. Just take a break.” I’m like, “I’m a junior. I’m supposed to graduate next year.” “Who cares?” “Okay.” So I said, “My mom will never let me do it.” I called my mom, my mom said, “If you can pay for it, you can go. That sounds like a good idea.”
So the whole plan was that Martha and I were going to go together. We'd be together. Well, she got placed in Finland. And the next thing I know I was on an airplane never traveled other to my grandparents. I never went to camp. No. I’m on an airplane to Belfast, Northern Ireland.
[00:08:00] KM: By yourself.
[00:08:01] AM: By myself. I got off the plane.
[00:08:02] KM: Started praying.
[00:08:04] AM: Well, I got off the plane. I called my dad, I said, “Well, there you go. I did it. Can I come home now?” “Nope.” They wouldn't let me. I didn't come home at Christmas.
[00:08:11] KM: What month is this?
[00:08:13] AM: That would have been August of 1995.
[00:08:21] KM: Who did you stay with?
[00:08:21] AM: We lived in the dorms. So it was a peer exchange program. This is when kids were first studying abroad. You know, now everybody goes abroad. But back there it was like a really unusual thing. So all my scholarships applied, and I was working on my senior thesis. And my senior thesis was on Northern Irish literature. So everything, it just sort of all fell into place. And I ended up in Belfast staying in the dorm. The first people to greet us off the airplane was basically like what we would think of now is the Baptist Student Union, except they're all Anglican over there. So it was the equivalent of like an Anglican Student Union. And they just sort of adopted me. There were a whole group of us that our floor was sort of the international student floor. So there was a young woman from Finland. There were some southern Irish, true Irish folks there. Not true Irish, but – Americans, Swedish. The Swedish, they used to dress me up like a Swede and they teach me –
[00:09:20] KM: You look like a Swede.
[00:09:22] AM: And they teach me Swedish sayings. There's a huge Swedish population in Northern Ireland. And we would go to these soccer, football games and they'd teach me how to talk in Swedish and people would come up. It was a lot of fun. They'd paint these Swedish flags on my face. At any rate, these Christian students just really – They would come by once a week.
[00:09:43] KM: And you accidentally met them, because your program was not a religious-based program. So God came in there and said, “We're going to just sweep her up.”
[00:09:52] AM: I vividly remember, I had been invited to go to a bible study and I said, “Look, I didn't even bring my bible. Why won't you let this go?” And he said, “Oh –” His name was Andrew. He showed up the next week with a bible inscribed. I still have it. It's an NIV, which is the New International Version, but they called it the Northern Ireland Version. And he said, “Now you have a bible. Now just come.”
And it really did. I remember standing in the rain and thinking, “This is the dumbest race I’ve ever run in my life. I’m not going to win,” in terms of trying to run away from God. And so um I started going to church with them, and by the time I left I had fallen back in love with God and it was not a duty obligation. It truly was this – I have this relationship with my creator and he's called me into this ministry, but I don't really want to do that ministry, because it's not very sexy, right? So I'll just go to law school. That's what I’ll do. I'll go to law school. That's the inner conversation that was happening in my head. That would be interesting. I’d make more money.
[00:10:56] KM: For sure.
[00:10:56] AM: Right? My advisor was like, “Well, I thought you were going to go to seminary.” I was like, “I changed my mind. I’m not going to do that.” She's like, “Well, you could become a lawyer for nonprofits.” And I’m thinking, “Well, you don't make a lot of money doing that. But, okay, I'll do that. That feels like a civil service sort of thing to do it,” right?
So when you apply to law school, at least back in the day, 20 years ago, you had to write like 300 words or less why do you want to be a lawyer. I had a sentence. My advisor tells me that would be an interesting thing –
[00:11:27] KM: That's your sentence, because my advisor told me to.
[00:11:30] AM: Right. It's probably not going to get you into like Washington, L.A. I mean, just a guess. And I was sitting at our kitchen table. We lived in this very small apartment, and I was sitting at this kitchen table and I just burst into tears because I could not – It was like the first – I’m a liberal arts degree. I can’t [inaudible 00:11:48] my way through anything, right? I can kind of make up my answers or anything.
[00:11:52] KM: She whispered, y'all. In case you're wondering. Just fill in the blank.
[00:11:57] AM: So I couldn't come up. I couldn't fake my way into law school. And it was because I was called to be a minister of the gospel. And so I called my priest and said, “I think I need to go through an ordination process.” And he said, “Well, finally. You've come back.”
[00:12:14] KM: You're a Lutheran priest?
[00:12:16] AM: So we became Episcopalian when I was in junior high.
[00:12:18] KM: Who's we?
[00:12:19] AM: My parents and I.
[00:12:20] KM: Your father that's a scientist?
[00:12:22] AM: Yeah.
[00:12:22] KM: Food scientist.
[00:12:23] AM: Yeah. Oh yeah. He said he left the Lutheran Church because they had called a minister who my dad had decided was racist. He probably was racist. And my dad wasn't going to go to church there. So my dad says he became a Seventh-Day golfer.
[00:12:40] KM: there's a lot of those.
[00:12:41] AM: Right? And my mom started visiting churches. And this was in a little town called Laurinberg, North Carolina. Right outside of Fayetteville. They have a Presbyterian college there. And there's a teeny tiny episcopal church there. Still a mission, it's always been a mission. And the minister there, the very reverend, Timothy Kimbrough. He's now the dean of the cathedral in Nashville. It was his first church. And Timothy is – I mean, in my mind he was six feet tall. I don't know actually how tall he is. But when you're in middle school and there's somebody with a big personality, they're as tall as God. And that was Timothy, big, thick, bushy black hair. It's all gray now, and so engaging. And he has a smile that just lights up a room and he just and you just know he loves you. It's like you’re exactly what he needed that day. And so my mom said, “We're going to go church here.” And that's how we became Episcopalian.
[00:13:40] KM: Dad said, “Okay.”
[00:13:41] AM: Mm-hmm. He did.
[00:13:42] KM: So your mother is a hospice nurse. She's service oriented. And your father is a food scientist. And you said, I read where you said, he is wicked smart. What does that mean?
[00:13:56] AM: He's got a perfect score on his GREs.
[00:13:58] KM: What's a GRE?
[00:13:59] AM: The Graduation Requirement Exam. You have to have it to get into like – I had to take it to get into my master's program. So if you're going to do a graduate level degree, you usually take the GRE, unless you're going to medical school, in which case you take the MCAT.
[00:14:12] KM: Why didn't he become a doctor, I wonder, if he's got that kind of –
[00:14:14] AM: He started his Ph.D., and we've had this conversation. And so if he's listening, I’m sorry, dad, I’m going to get this wrong. He has some witty comment about why he didn't finish his Ph.D. That has something to do with like it takes too long. It's too boring. He'd just rather be doing the work and not worry about writing all these stuff and – Yeah.
[00:14:31] KM: I agree with all that. School wears you out. You moved to Arkansas to accept the job as dean and rector of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in the middle of a worldwide pandemic and just weeks before school started for your three children who are 16, 13 and 8-years-old. Tell us about that decision and how you managed to square it with your family.
[00:14:56] AM: Well, it’s crazy. It's absolutely insane. Of course, when I started interviewing for the job, we didn't have a pandemic.
[00:15:03] KM: How long did it take to get the job or to think about it?
[00:15:06] AM: Well, so you had to have your stuff submitted by November the 15th. It was the day before my birthday that I had to have – It was like a thing. Like that became a thing for me that I was going to apply for this job –
[00:15:19] KM: As a birthday present.
[00:15:20] AM: Yeah. So I interviewed on like – That was my first Zoom call, really, before the pandemic. And I think that was in January. And I had a great interview. Fell in love with the search committee.
[00:15:35] KM: Did you come visit the cathedral?
[00:15:37] AM: No. So what was happening next was they were coming to visit me in Danville, and that was all worked out the weekend that everything shut down. Was that march 13th? Right? Yeah. So it was a thing. It became a thing that I had worked myself up and organized that they were coming and to keep things secret. Because once a church finds out that you're interviewing, it changes their relationship.
And so I had worked really hard to keep everything really low key. We had decided not to tell our kids, which is a mistake. I should have told my daughter, but we decided not to do it because –
[00:16:16] KM: Well, they can't keep their mouth shut.
[00:16:18] AM: Exactly. And at that point there were four candidates. I mean, so much can happen. And so then it all just stopped. So at that point I thought, “Well, I guess this isn't meant to be like. I guess it's not going to happen. We'll stay here.” And I remember the search committee emailed me. I have a hard time with dates. I want to say in May or June and said, “What are you thinking?” And I said, “Well, my daughter's going to be a junior. We're likely not going to move once she starts her junior year. So it's probably not going to happen.
I mean, the next thing I knew, they were on a plane and they flew into little Danville, Kentucky, which has this little airport. And they came in for a day. We had masks and the whole deal and my husband met them. And it was like, “Oh, okay. I guess this is happening.” And that's when we told our kids. And our daughter, 16-year-old, responded exactly the way you would expect. I’m not moving. This is the worst thing you could have ever done for me. Really, she was angry that I didn't tell her I was doing it, that I was interviewing for the job. Anyway, we came to visit. We stayed in a bnb. I mean, it was wild. Like interviewing for a job wearing a mask is not ideal.
[00:17:40] KM: Did they ask you to say, “Lower your mask so I could see what you look like. Lower your mask so I could see what you look like.”
[00:17:43] AM: I mean, because preaching – Think about when you're engaged or even now, right? Like we're looking at each other's faces and facial expressions, kind of how you know. It was wild. And by the time we left that visit, we knew if I was offered the call we would take it, because it was just such a – There was the element of call for me in my vocation. And then there was the element of, “It's the best thing we could do for our family.”
[00:18:09] KM: Why?
[00:18:11] AM: Oh, Little Rock's so undersold.
[00:18:14] KM: I hear that over and over and over again on the show.
[00:18:18] AM: People who have lived here their whole life, you just have no idea. I mean, it's got a small town feel to it with all the big town luxuries. The variety and an ability to find the right school for your kid is really extraordinary. Our kids have some learning differences. And so what this community has to offer for them is exceptional.
[00:18:48] KM: Really?
[00:18:49] AM: Oh, yeah. Again, Little Rock's just undersold. What we have access to for our kids is really wonderful. It was – Yes.
[00:19:01] KM: Not to mention, Trinity's drop dead gorgeous, the cathedral.
[00:19:05] AM: Well, right. And not to mention the fact that the cathedral is poised. And this is the call, the vocation, is poised to really be a leader in the diocese and really in our region of the episcopal church in terms of engaging in community ministry and being actively engaged in the life of the city.
[00:19:25] KM: But Christianity is waning across the world. I mean, since I’ve been going to Trinity, we've lost parishioners and parishioners and parishioners. So why do you say that?
[00:19:37] AM: I think it's because it's lost its competitive edge. That's not really what I mean. But it's lost its ability to be its own voice in the wilderness. What I mean to say – What I’m trying to say is the church, the gospel, has a particular truth to it that doesn't really resonate with any other category of truth. But because we've attached our religion to so many other aspects of how we live, it's lost. To me, it's lost its depth. It's not as substantive as it can be. If we really dive deep into our faith, you don’t have the privilege to get paid to go deep, right?
And so the deeper I go into my faith, the more I believe that it's at the core of who I am and who I’m called to be. This connection that I feel to our creator and to the Christ, and that that is the thing that can drive change to the benefit of creation, this reconciling work that God's trying to do among us. But we get so distracted by all the – I mean, I get distracted by all the other things, that call to provide the best we can for our families. They're not bad things. They can be distractions from who God's calling us to be in the work God is calling us to do.
[00:21:12] KM: That was a very abstract –
[00:21:13] AM: I’m a very abstract thinker.
[00:21:15] KM: It was a very abstract thought. So be more specific. What is the holy gospel truth?
[00:21:21] AM: Oh, for me, to me, it's all relational. So in this moment that we have right now between you and I, God is revealing some aspect of God's self to both of us through our conversation, and maybe that's kindness, mercy, grace, love –
[00:21:42] KM: Direction?
[00:21:43] AM: Direction, wisdom, truth. You talked about those in your opening. That we can find in our relationship to one another and that deepens our call to be more of who God made us to be. So that then when I leave here tonight –
[00:21:57] KM: You take something away.
[00:21:59] KM: Absolutely. I’ve been changed and transformed by it. Not only because you are beloved and chosen by God, the one who made you, and you're reminding me of my belovedness and my chosenness who God made me to be. But God made me to be that person for a purpose. Not for my own will or my own – What's the word? Grandiosity or narcissism. But in order to serve my neighbor and to serve the people that I come in contact with at any point of the day.
[00:22:39] KM: A purpose-driven life.
[00:22:41] AM: Yes, and I’ve read that book. And I know – Right?
[00:22:45] KM: There you go.
[00:22:47] AM: Yes. I mean, you can't get away from that bit of marketing that comes along with it, right? And I think that's where we've gotten distracted as if we have, because we do have something to “sell”, right? But to me it's like it's not – That part of church is not a business. That part of church has to do with actually people believing wholeheartedly.
[00:23:08] KM: So where do you start? How do you start? Where are you going to start to do that?
[00:23:12] AM: It's all about relationships to me, Kerry.
[00:23:15] KM: So you talk about racial reconciliation. You talk about community outreach. You've talked to Civil Hampton from Bethel AME. You're big about youth programs. How do you want to start with racial reconciliation? Have you got any ideas about that yet?
[00:23:30] AM: I do. It’s, again, relationship. So I’ve had the privilege and honor to meet Truman and Bettie Tolfree, who are the pastors of Bethel AME who Trinity Cathedral has this covenanted relationship with. It's really hard right now in the pandemic to build relationships and to build trust, but even in the little bit of time that I’ve spent with them on Zoom, and actually I went by Bethel because I just wanted to see it, and it was open. So I kind of like knocked on the door and they were there and I got to meet them in person. It was so exciting. So it starts with having just this authentic, honest relationship where we begin to work together. It's not just like some book study or some showing up at a rally. Not that those things aren't important. It’s that we love and care about each other and I would give my life for you.
[00:24:28] KM: That's a bold statement right there. Has there been anything that's been a three alarm fire since you've gotten there that you thought, “Oh, wow! I didn't see that coming,” besides the pandemic of course.
[00:24:40] AM: Right. Our property is old.
[00:24:46] KM: It's expensive to maintain.
[00:24:47] AM: Yeah, but I knew – I mean, these are the things that you – I’ve always said you take a job knowing the red flags. Like you decide those are your red flags. Those are your three alarm fires, right? So the property – And it's more than just – I mean, the cathedral's actually in really great shape. It's the rest of the property that needs a lot of attention.
[00:25:07] KM: That's why Americans tear buildings down and put up new ones because it's expensive to maintain. But it's also expensive to tear them down and build a new one. I love old buildings. Everybody knows I love old buildings. You do too?
[00:25:19] AM: Yeah.
[00:25:21] KM: So you just have to take care of them and love them. You're listening to Up In Your Business with me, Kerry McCoy, and I’m speaking today with the history maker Reverend Amy Dafler Meaux. First female dean of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in 136 years of history making in Little Rock.
So let's talk about celebrating Christmas during the holidays. What does Christmas look like in 2020? How do you recommend people get through it?
[00:25:49] AM: This is how I’m going to get through it. I mean, we’re going to have church outside, limited numbers. I’ve been ordained 18 years. So for 18 years I’ve never been at home on Christmas eve. I’ve always been at work, at church.
[00:26:05] KM: Big day, Easter and Christmas.
[00:26:06] AM: Bit day. Big day. And that's just part of it that comes with a job. So for the first time in my children's lives and my marriage, I’m going to be home on Christmas Eve. So we've decided that we're just going to buy into it, that this year's just different from every other year. And what are the things that we've kind of always wanted to do at Christmas but we've never done them because we do this other thing at Christmas, right? We have this other tradition. So we're going to bake cookies on Christmas Eve. We're going to get up on Christmas Day and we're going to have – I’ve decided we're going to have appetizers all day, whatever we want. We want to have like cheese dip in the middle of the day with whatever. We'll just do whatever we want. Instead of having like a big meal, and I’ve had the privilege of having a wonderful friend who has made our Christmas Day dinner every year for the last 10 years. So I haven't had to cook on Christmas Day in a long time. So that's part of it, is I don't really want to cook –
[00:26:59] KM: That's a great thing for people to do for their preachers, because they do work all day. Okay. Go ahead. I’m sorry.
[00:27:05] AM: No. No. I mean, it is. It was the best Christmas gift, honestly. So I would say to any household, you see this as an opportunity to do something you may never have the chance to do again, which might be staying together in bed all day or wearing your pajamas all day or have a big lavish meal just the X-number of you. And don't be afraid to worship at home.
[00:27:34] KM: I think that's important. Light your candles.
[00:27:35] AM: We don't have any practice worshiping at home. So of course we don't feel confident about it. Well, I shouldn't speak so generally. There are many of us that don't have a lot of practice worshiping at home, because we're used to going to church and having a church to organize us. And so of course it feels uncomfortable and not natural and maybe we're a little embarrassed or we're not really sure what to do. Light a candle. Offer your prayers. Sing some carols. Read the gospel of Luke. Read the gospel of Matthew. Read the story of Jesus and be with one another. And that's really to me the heart of Christmas.
[00:28:18] KM: Kneel beside your bed and say your prayers out loud, or read the gospel out loud. Kneeling is very spiritual.
[00:28:26] AM: It's very powerful.
[00:28:27] KM: You're humbling yourself in some odd way. So speak about Jesus. How do you align the fact that Christianity says Jesus is the Son of a God. I’m going to be honest right here on the radio. I go to church all the time. I love my church. I struggle with this.
[00:28:49] AM: Because it's crazy, right? It's totally wild. It sounds – Our youngest is obsessed with the Greek Gods, right? So I’ve read a lot about Greek Gods in the last eight years that I’ve never – Was probably supposed to read in college, but I never actually read. And that's what those are all about, right? Is that some god had a demigod or another God and then that God had more Gods, right? And so it's totally wild to think that we believe that our God is different from those Gods and it's like somehow more unique. But I believe it because Jesus is – For me, Jesus is a historical figure.
[00:29:28] KM: No denying that.
[00:29:29] AM: So when I go and read the gospels every single time, it just affirms for me that Jesus was the Christ. I believe in the mystery of the incarnation and the resurrection. They are mysteries. I can't necessarily explain them. I mean, talk about abstract. But I believe them wholeheartedly.
[00:29:49] KM: And you just keep practicing.
[00:29:50] AM: Oh yeah.
[00:29:51] KM: I just keep practicing. I keep saying the mantra and I keep practicing. And there's no denying the power of prayer.
[00:29:59] AM: Amen. I mean, yes.
[00:30:04] KM: There is something about prayer. So does that come from – So it will change you. You pray and it will change you.
[00:30:13] AM: Have you ever prayed for somebody you don't really like?
[00:30:15] KM: All the time.
[00:30:19] GM: Careful there.
[00:30:21] KM: In fact, almost every time I go to church I have to pray for somebody that I feel like – I have 25 employees. So, yeah, someone's always kind of irritating me.
[00:30:31] AM: Do you believe that you are the answer to someone's prayer?
[00:30:37] KM: I have to – Is this going to be narcissistic to say? But I do believe that I help people, yes. I believe this radio show helps people.
[00:30:46] AM: So every opportunity becomes a moment where we can be connected to, again, God's reconciling the world and work in the world where we're active participants in it by either our prayer or seeking to serve someone else and maybe being the answer to their prayer. I mean don't you think that's why everybody loved Garth Brooks's song Unanswered Prayers?
[00:31:10] KM: Yes.
[00:31:10] AM: Right? Because we all connect to the idea that we pray for what we know and oftentimes what we receive is better than what we could have imagined for ourselves.
[00:31:23] KM: Absolutely. Why did you ask me if I pray for other people that I’m mad at?
[00:31:28] AM: Well, because it changes you. For me anyway, I speak for myself. When I pray for somebody that I don't like or that I’m mad at –
[00:31:35] KM: I didn't know a preacher could do that, could not like somebody. Okay. I’m kidding. Yeah. You’re a human.
[00:31:45] AM: On Fridays. Every other day of the week, I’m just a priest.
[00:31:49] KM: It does help you. It absolutely helps you, because if you don't, you begin to get angry and then the anger begins to make wrinkles in your face, and I hate that.
[00:31:56] AM: Well, I said in my sermon on Sunday, if I didn't believe in the mystery of the incarnation, I would believe that I could solely depend on myself. And if I start to solely depend on myself, I will be ruled by anxiety and my narcissism.
[00:32:14] KM: That's exactly what you said. I listened to your sermon Sunday. You spoke of the transformative power of Christ. And that if you don't let go, and I guess you'd say let God. That's not the words you used, that you will be ruled by anxiety and narcissism.
[00:32:30] AM: Absolutely.
[00:32:30] KM: That really spoke to me in your sermon.
[00:32:33] AM: Thank you.
[00:32:33] KM: You're welcome.
[00:32:35] AM: Can I say this? Preachers get very little feedback about their sermons.
[00:32:39] KM: How come?
[00:32:40] AM: Because people – Well, especially during the pandemic, because we're all preaching to a camera. But pre-pandemic and hopefully post-pandemic, think about when you leave church and you see your preacher, you'll say to them, “Thank you for your sermon. That meant a lot to me.” Or you'll say, “Good to see you. Have a great day.” And there's nothing – I get the funniest responses when I say to somebody, “I’m so glad you enjoyed my sermon. What spoke to you in my sermon?”
[00:33:08] KM: Oh, I hate that when you preachers do that. John Jensen did that to me one time and I just froze up.
[00:33:16] AM: People do. Because then they go, “Oh, do I remember what I heard?” Because think about all the sermons you've heard in your lifetime. And how many do you remember?
[00:33:23] KM: And you really do hear something when they say it. But after it's over with, it's gone.
[00:33:27] AM: Right? Many of us have very little knowledge of what God is speaking to our people.
[00:33:37] KM: And you really put a lot into sermons. You really get up there and lay it on the line. And then for some reason your parishioners put you on a pedestal and think y'all don't have egos like the rest of us. And really truly you would like to hear, “Hey, you did a good job, and this is what I liked,” because you’re just like everybody else. I mean, after the radio show I go to the work the next day and I say, “How was the radio show? What did you like about it? What could I change to make it better?” I mean, it's the same thing for you. How can I improve what I’m saying?
So I just want to tell everybody you're listening to Up In Your Business with me, Kerry McCoy, and that I’m speaking today with the history maker Reverend Amy Dafler Meaux. First female dean and rector of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in its 136-year history in Little Rock, Arkansas.
So the psychology of Christmas, there's something called seasonal anxiety depression. We talked a little bit about that just now. Is there any tips for loneliness besides prayer? Lighting candles, prayer? A lot of what we talked about is doing with other people. But if you're alone, you're in your head. You're in a head game.
[00:34:42] AM: I agree. And I think we don't do hard things well. I don't do hard things well. So if I’m lonely, my inclination is to go inside. Having at least one person in your life that you know you can call and say, “I’m really lonely today.”
[00:34:58] KM: And you can't get out and do service work, which is a good cure for loneliness.
[00:35:01] AM: Absolutely. I follow somebody on Instagram who talks about taking a stupid walk. You get lonely, go outside and take a stupid walk.
[00:35:09] KM: Oh, that's a great idea. That's a great idea. Fresh air will do the body always good. Squaring science with religion, that's a tough one. How do you do it?
[00:35:20] AM: Maybe it's because my dad's a scientist, but it's never been an issue for me. I mean, my dad will say like, “Well, sure. If God is who we say God is, then can't God do whatever God wants, right? Can't you have the marriage of those two things?” We can't imagine that we actually know everything that we know everything about how God works. I don't think.
[00:35:41] KM: And can you say that the time is really – The bible says that in years it was created. How many years ago? I never can remember this.
[00:35:54] AM: See? You talk about abstract thinking.
[00:35:56] KM: Okay.
[00:35:56] AM: Okay. So time is my favorite dimension. You know, three dimensions. I don't remember what they are. I took physics, but I’ve forgotten them. But the fourth dimension is time. Madeleine L’Engle writes about this in a lot of her books, and she was an influential writer for me when I was growing up. She wrote the book A Wrinkle in Time they that Oprah just did a big movie. Okay. That was a couple years ago. So to me, the one thing we have is time. And so we measure time and we put lots of blocks around it, right? We use time. Time has a lot of value to us. And I don't have anywhere else to be right now except for right here in this moment. I mean, that's the idea of being fully present in the space that you have.
So when I look at scripture, if you will, and the way it writes about time and history, it is both writing within the span of history, right? Some of those books are historical books. We know that they're historical. And also like the notion of this seven day is humanity trying to measure this immeasurable amount of time that God gave us.
[00:37:04] KM: So it's not the seven days we think of.
[00:37:07] AM: Yes and no, I think. It's a mystery, because imagine if we had decided that there would be six days. I mean that's such an existential thought.
[00:37:19] KM: So the Big Bang Theory is way before the seven days.
[00:37:24] AM: Sure. But if you're the people of Israel and you're trying to tell the story to your children about how God made them and made the space where they live, isn't it amazing that they came up with this creation story? And every culture has one. The indigenous cultures all have them.
[00:37:49] KM: Yeah, and they all – Yes. So speak about that. How do we all end up Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Christmas all end up in the same month? How does that happen?
[00:38:01] AM: It's a big mystery. That's what my dad would say, “Big, big mystery.”
[00:38:05] KM: So you just have to have faith.
[00:38:07] AM: I think so. I think you do. And you have to practice it. It has to be more than a duty and obligation, but the duty and the obligation of practicing it gets us to a place where our faith can be deepened and enriched.
[00:38:19] KM: Does consumerism around Christmas bother you?
[00:38:22] AM: Oh yeah. My mother loves Christmas, has always loved Christmas. I grew up with a red and green living room year round. She loves Christmas. She started playing Christmas music Thanksgiving Day, and it went through the 12 days of Christmas. So this concept of like Christmas, just the bigness of Christmas has always made me crazy, because to me the heart of Christmas – Isn't the heart of Christmas this moment at the altar when we experience the incarnate word?
[00:38:53] KM: So some people are intimidated by the Episcopal Church because of all the –
[00:38:58] AM: Yeah.
[00:39:00] KM: I know. It's the part I really love about it, is its tradition. And you say the same things over and over exactly the same. I always know what to expect. But some people are intimidated by it. So let's talk about some of the vocabulary in the church. Why is the sermon called the homily and not just called the sermon?
[00:39:23] AM: So my colleague, Russ Snap, is the person who should answer most of those questions, because his like expertise is liturgy. Do you want to hear my joke about a homily versus a sermon? So I’ve always said anything five minutes and under is called a homily. To me it just basically means a shortened sermon. Around 10 minutes is a sermon and anything over 10 minutes is a nap.
[00:39:46] KM: It's kind of true.
[00:39:48] AM: But our evangelical brothers and sisters, they preach 20, 30 minutes. And um Thanksgiving preacher, when I asked her to preach, she said, “Okay. Well how long?” And I said, “Oh, 10 12, minutes.” She grew up in the Pentecostal tradition. She went, “Really?” I said, “Oh, yeah. Yeah. 10, 12 minutes.” “Well, that's not very long at all.” I said, “I know. Ain’t it great?”
[00:40:12] KM: I didn't watch Thanksgiving. Who was the Thanksgiving preacher?
[00:40:14] AM: Jamie Scott. She's the representative for the 37th District. She's amazing.
[00:40:21] KM: Well, I’m going to have to go back to YouTube. So I want to tell our listeners too that you can see you preach and other people at Trinity Cathedral Little Rock on YouTube. So I think I’m going to go back and –
[00:40:36] AM: Hurst’s sermon is exactly what we need to hear. She um gives very specific numbers about poverty and hunger in Arkansas.
[00:40:47] KM: It's hard to believe that people are hungry in America to me.
[00:40:50] AM: Isn't it wild?
[00:40:52] KM: Yes.
[00:40:52] AM: Because we have enough food.
[00:40:54] KM: Yes.
[00:40:54] AM: It's logistics, right? We talk about logistics.
[00:40:57] KM: So what are you going to do next? What's your next thing? When you leave here, you're going to go back and you're going to write your Christmas sermon. But what do you plan for 2021?
[00:41:06] AM: Oh, we're going to start our strategic plan for Trinity. We're going to get our property assessed and create a master plan and we're going to get ready so that when we are all back together we can fully engage in vision and ministry for our community.
[00:41:23] KM: I can't wait.
[00:41:24] AM: I mean, do you see me?
[00:41:25] KM: I know. She's banging on the counter. I love it. She's excited. Okay. So it's time for you to give us a prayer. What do we say before the prayer and also with you? What do we say right before that?
[00:41:34] AM: The Lord be with you.
[00:41:35] KM: And also with you.
[00:41:36] AM: Let us pray. Gracious God, I give you thanks for the gift of this day and this opportunity and privilege we have to be here together. Thank you for coming among us and making yourself known to us. And as we leave this place, encourage and strengthen us that we may love you with our whole heart soul and mind and love our neighbors as ourselves. By the power of your Spirit into the glory of your Son who live and reign with you forever and ever. Amen.
[00:42:08] KM: Amen.
[00:42:09] AM: So this is my favorite blessing. It's not mine. I hope I get it right. Go forth into the world in peace. Be of good courage. Hold fast to that which is good. Render to no one evil for evil. Strengthen the faint-hearted. Support the weak. Honor all persons. Love and serve the lord rejoicing in the power of the Spirit and the blessing of God almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with us today and remain with us every day. Amen.
[00:42:38] KM: Amen. Lovely. Here's your gift. I have a gift.
[00:42:42] AM: Oh! They're flags.
[00:42:43] KM: And the Episcopal flag you were just asking, if I had an Episcopal flag.
[00:42:46] AM: And the Arkansas flag.
[00:42:47] KM: Yeah! I should have gotten you one for everywhere you lived, although I don't know if there'd be enough holes in the desk in the base for it to sit on your desk. Have to get a 50-state flag holder.
[00:42:57] AM: We were just talking about the Arkansas flag in our house the other day.
[00:43:00] KM: Oh, now you got an Episcopal flag, an Arkansas flag, and a U.S. flag. Thank you, Amy.
[00:43:05] AM: Thank you. So fun.
[00:43:04] KM: I love you being here. Oh, it’s great fun.
[00:43:06] AM: I want to come back and interview you and ask you lots of questions.
[00:43:09] KM: Okay, you can. You're about the 20th person to say that.
In closing, to our listeners, thank you for spending time with us. We hope you've heard or learned something that's been inspiring or enlightening and that it, whatever it was, will help you up your independence, your business or your life. I’m Kerry McCoy and I'll see you next time on Up In Your Business. Until then, be brave and keep it up.
[00:43:35] GM: You've been listening to Up In Your Business with Kerry McCoy. For links to resources you heard discussed on today's show, go to flagandbanner.com, select radio and choose today's guest. If you'd like to sponsor this show or any show, contact me, Gray, That's G-R-A-Y@flagandbanner.com. All interviews are recorded and posted the following week. Stay informed of exciting upcoming guests by subscribing to our YouTube channel or podcast wherever you like to listen. Kerry's goal is simple, to help you live the American dream.