One of the lay ministers present at our lay ministry meeting last night is struggling with MS. Formerly a very active woman, and one of the real matriarchs of our congregation, over the past year or so her health and mobility have noticeably declined; this spring she fell and broke her ankle, so now she's further impeded by a walker and walking cast.
During our discussion, she spoke very passionately about her love of preaching and her enjoyment of mentoring within our synod's lay ministry program, a job she had to give up after losing the ability to drive. She talked of her frustration at not being physically able to participate in worship leadership the way she had previously.
But then she added that she believes God closes one door in order to open a new door, and told us about her prayer ministry -- how she engages in a daily discipline of praying for every single person (and there are many) on our congregational prayer list, as well as for the concerns of people who contact her directly. One person noted, when asking her for prayers, "I'm asking you because I know you'll pray."
As she was speaking, I thought about Julian of Norwich, physically constrained both by the discipline of her calling as an anchoress and by her own health problems, who became a beloved spiritual counselor and pray-er for the people of her community.
So I told my friend about Julian. "I think you're our parish anchoress," I said.
It's a wonderful thing to have.