Grateful to Nicole Duran, at St. John's Presbyterian, for Easter Day

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Nine or so months ago, Dr. Nicole Duran quietly slipped into her role as a transitional minister for my own St. John's Presbyterian Church and—without overt fanfare—changed the lives of many. She never gave the expected sermon. She brought intelligence to history and now to the stories of then. She found an old stone baptismal font long wasting away on the church property and installed it to its proper glory—simply, almost matter of fact. Nicole engaged the young with words and seeds, felt boards and icons. She visited those who had fallen ill, spoke eloquently and with genuine emotion at funerals, inquired after others, attended to small fractures and bigger ones, and listened. Nicole Duran is not an overt entertainer; she doesn't need to be. She is, instead, a quiet, never self-congratulatory innovator, someone who has something to say, and how I have loved paying attention to the connections her fine mind makes, how I have loved the resonant power of her messages—relevant, real, and searching.

Today Nicole gave an extraordinary, alive, personal Easter Sunday sermon—looked at us through the thick black frames of her glasses and said precisely what she thought about religion today, the role of a holy place in our lives, the difference between seeking out the familiar for familiarity's sake and finding faith in the changing and new. And then, during communion, she invited every person in that quiet church to take a single flower from so many flower-filled vases and lace it into the netting of a large wooden cross she'd had built for us. Tulips, roses, carnations, twizzlers of blue and red, striped petals—one by one we laced our flowers in, and when we were done, that cross was alive, the dark day was bright, and we had lived Easter.

People touch our lives. Sometimes they don't know just how much they do, or why. I will never forget Nicole Duran—transitional but not temporary—nor this particular Easter day. She is a woman walking a stone wall in a simple dress, lifting her hopes—for us—to the sky.


Carrie said...

Sounds like a beautiful service.

John said...

Nicole Duran's wonderful Easter Sunday sermon is available for listening (MP3) and reading (PDF) on the Sermons page of the St. John's website at

It seems that many of us at St. John's share in Beth's sincere appreciation of Nicole's remarkable qualities and are grateful for her time with us.

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