The Nashville Ledger

VOL. 45 | NO. 45 | Friday, November 5, 2021

By Margaret Sizemore

Updated 6:52AM

Becca Stevens shares intimate particulars about her life’s journey, in books, in sermons, in pleasant dialog. They movement as generously because the aromatic oils she makes use of to anoint her kids’s toes, the wounded ladies she loves and serves, and the congregants at her little chapel at Vanderbilt University.

She is named the founder and president of Thistle Farms in Nashville, with its rising world community. She’s maybe greatest often known as the apostle of the message “Love Heals,” upon which the Thistle Farms basis was constructed 25 years in the past.

She is looking for to deepen that message with a brand new guide, “Practically Divine,” and he or she attracts on the sturdy, binding thread of her mom’s voice to inform the story.

“The thought of ‘Practically Divine’ is use what you’ve gotten that’s sensible and expertise the divine. Practically divine to me means nearly and simply sufficient,” Stevens says of her guide, printed final month by Harper Horizon.

“I hope it’s a reminder for everyone to really feel like what they’ve inside them is sufficient to take them wherever they should go on this journey, and I hope it’s a method for individuals to really feel like justice isn’t one thing we do on the facet. It’s a method we stay,” she continues.

In the opening chapter – “In Broad Daylight” (her mother’s exclamation at perpetrators who did their shameless deeds in plain view), Stevens tells of being sexually abused as a toddler by a church elder. “Practically Divine” closes with a imaginative and prescient of “The Feast” – “shared internet hosting the place we serve each other so all of us can eat.” A feast of peace flavored with small acts of affection.

Her mom, Anne Stevens, died in 1997 from a terminal mind illness. Stevens says she didn’t intend to construct her guide’s framework upon her mother’s sayings; it turned out that method “from the start to the tip.” The life tales and insights paired with the sayings are an invite to consciousness of divine love in each day experiences.

“It actually occurred organically that I used to be within the (Thistle Farms) café and I begin the guide off together with her simply principally stepping into my head, and I can hear her voice,” she continues. “She’s been useless 25 years … she by no means bought to see Thistle Farms begin. And I used to be like, ‘Omigosh, how is she nonetheless in my head?’ But all of us have our moms’ voices while you want them coming into our head.”

Anne Stevens grew to become a widow Nov. 22, 1968, her thirty fifth birthday. Her husband was the Rev. Gladstone H. Stevens, the rector of the pretty new St. Matthias Episcopal Church in Nashville, which he helped begin. He was planning to come back house and have lunch along with his household after making a pastoral go to to a household in disaster.

A brief distance from his house, his automobile was struck by a drunken driver. Stevens recalled the day in her 2013 guide “Snake Oil” and has recounted it many occasions over as a part of her therapeutic story. News accounts say he was 41. Stevens was 5 years outdated on the time, the fourth of 5 Stevens siblings. The youngest, her solely brother, Gladstone Hudson Stevens, was solely 2.

“Yeah, she was superb, 5 youngsters, elevating them by yourself at 35 years outdated,” Stevens says of her mom, Anne Stevens, a registered nurse who died in 1997.

— Photo By Michelle Morrow |The Ledger

“Yeah, she was superb, 5 youngsters, elevating them by yourself at 35 years outdated,” Stevens remembers. “She was superior, she was sturdy, she was fierce and he or she was humorous and inventive, so she was a superb voice to have in my head.”

Anne Stevens was a registered nurse in New York earlier than the household moved to Nashville. Many right here knew her via her longtime service as government director of St. Luke’s Community House in Nashville. Escuela Anne Stevens in Ecuador, which opened in 1999 beneath the umbrella of Becca’s Center for Contemplative Justice, is called for her.

The new guide, throughout the chapter on “Bound by Grace,” tells of “how my mother lived and died in a swish state.” Becca Stevens was a few months’ pregnant and having a miscarriage the morning her mom was hospitalized and later identified with a variant of “mad cow” illness.

It was additionally per week earlier than the Magdalene home, the precursor of Thistle Farms, was to open its doorways to its first 5 ladies residents residing on the streets. She went to her physician after which drove to the hospital. As her mother was being settled into her room, the nurse caring for her requested if her mom was the spouse of her childhood pastor.

“I used to be the little lady on the home your father stopped by earlier than he died,” the nurse informed her. Stevens recounted the story throughout one in every of her summer time sermons at St. Augustine’s Chapel at Vanderbilt. “There had been most likely solely a handful of individuals on the planet who knew (dad’s) title on this city,” she acknowledges. The nurse mentioned the priest’s take care of the household saved her dad and mom’ marriage; she was honored to take care of his spouse, Becca’s mom.

“I had by no means heard any a part of that story,” Stevens wrote. Synchronicity? Coincidence? “I truthfully don’t know. What I do know is that even on the toughest days, if we are able to discover the presence of thoughts to really feel love’s presence, a peace that passes all understanding washes over us.”

“Practically Divine” was written through the pandemic, “and that grew to become the largest reward of COVID for me,” Stevens explains. “All my journeys – I believe I used to be booked for 5 completely different counties within the spring and summer time of 2020 – all ended. I actually lavished the writing of this. It was like I bought to spend extra time with the phrases, with the ideas … in these early months of the pandemic it felt very tender.”

She devoted her new guide to her siblings. “They’re one of the best,” she enthuses after summarizing their present whereabouts. The eldest, Katie Ruth, is deceased. Sandra Lynn, a Ph.D., lives in Nashville and teaches occupational remedy at two space universities – “She’s a healer, too.’’ Pamela Jean is a deputy director for the state of Georgia, working with at-risk kids, and Gladstone Hudson is a Catholic priest.

As adults, the writer and her brother each entered the priesthood. Becca Stevens was ordained as an Episcopal priest in 1991 in Nashville and has spent a lot of her priestly life as one of many chaplains at St. Augustine’s Chapel at Vanderbilt. Gladstone was ordained as a Roman Catholic priest for the Archdiocese of Louisville, Kentucky, in 2000. He is now dean on the School of Theology at St. Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore.

Stevens says she was a math main in faculty and is a graduate of Vanderbilt Divinity School, the place she met her husband, Marcus Hummon. She tells the story of her ordination in Nashville in “Snake Oil,” which she says is one in every of about 10 books she has written over time.

She was eight months pregnant, kneeling through the ceremony whereas a circle of monks laid fingers on her head and shoulders: “For me, that meant that a number of of the monks who knew my father blessed my ordination. Ironically, my father, for all his stunning ideas, died pondering that girls’s ordination can be the tip of the church,” she wrote.

Stevens says as she kneeled “all I may see was black tasseled footwear. I knew in that second that I used to be not going to have the ability to stroll of their footwear. I needed to journey on the laborious, dry floor, and I wanted footwear extra applicable for the journey I used to be making.”

Rather, the Rev. Becca Stevens usually may be discovered preaching and serving at liturgies with none footwear in any respect; likewise, whereas talking at retreats and such. She defined in “Snake Oil” that everybody in her household went barefoot rising up. During her ordination, together with her toes bloated in being pregnant, she rejected clogs in favor of naked toes. She muses that it serves as a reminder to take a therapeutic posture.

Stevens knew she didn’t need to be the rector of a parish. “For me, priesthood felt like a method to discover the world with a little bit of freedom, in that you simply had permission to speak about love and justice, , and type neighborhood,” she notes. “I all the time knew I needed to be concerned with ladies who had been coming off the streets and with communities that had been fascinated about serving to ladies come off the streets, I knew that.”

She credit her mom’s instance of “exhibiting love via sensible means” as giving her the “wherewithal to open a house for girls survivors of trafficking, prostitution and dependancy… I did it as a result of sanctuary is essentially the most sensible superb of all,” she writes in her introduction to “Practically Divine.” “I needed to do the work of therapeutic from the within out. And that begins with a protected house.”

She additionally credit her eldest son’s harmless discover of a billboard for a downtown grownup membership that featured a girl dressed as a cat because the spark that bought her transferring to open the primary sanctuary house so a few years in the past. “I had the concept, however you know the way all of us have concepts. It’s like life will get in the best way.

“I believe we get used to seeing stuff like that, after which via a toddler’s eyes, it’s like, ‘Why is that woman smiling?’ It was like, this isn’t regular to decorate a grown girl up like a cat, paste her up there and promote her most likely for lower than a cat. And it was his stunning eyes that noticed that as unusual that helped me get occurring this,” she provides.

She says she talked to buddies – “, neighborhood is how concepts develop” – raised funding, discovered a home, organized a board and went to the jail to speak to ladies. There, she encountered a sweep of classmates from her years as a scholar at Overton High School: the priest, the jail guard, the counselor who gave her the primary referral and the lady who was being referred. “Isn’t that loopy? And feeling, truthfully, that due to life any of us may have modified locations at any time.”

Since the opening of the Magdalene home 25 years in the past, Stevens has based 10 justice organizations with world connections, some tied to Thistle Farms and a few impartial. A couple of favorites embody a conservation cemetery known as Larkspur, based in 2014 at Taylor Hollow in Westmoreland, and girls’s artisan teams in Mexico, Ecuador, Botswana, Greece, in addition to the Nashville-based Center for Contemplative Justice designed to shelter and nurture new organizations and concepts.

“The thought is to assist all of us, honestly, to take care of our personal lives, to maintain difficult a tradition that also buys and sells ladies, to maintain pondering creatively about how therapeutic works, to really feel hopeful. I imply, gosh, the ‘hope shot’ is what the world wants each day proper now.’’

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