December cover image: Photo of National Bishop Susan Johnson.

Vol 23 No 8 December 2008

Columns

National Bishops's Turn

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Lucia Carruthers—Editor
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More Than a Pretty Face

This issue's cover model makes an impact.

One of the great pleasures of being a magazine editor is meeting exciting, innovative, and inspiring people. Though I've been moved and energized by virtually everyone I've put on the cover of one of my magazines over the past 15 years, just a few stand out as truly exceptional.

Janice Filmon, wife of former Manitoba premier Gary Filmon, is one of these people. A force of nature and tireless community and family advocate, Janice has a remarkable ability to make a personal connection with everyone she meets. She is everything I aspire to be: hard-working, humble, positive, passionate, a great listener, resilient, and giving of her time and talents.

When I meet such remarkable people, I try not to let the opportunity for growth pass me by. These men and women are the most vivid and accessible reminders that I am a work-in-progress with so much potential yet to be realized. And I try to take something away from each encounter that I can use to shape my approach to life.

Those who have spent time with National Bishop Susan Johnson know that she, too, will top my list of exceptional cover models. I've learned very different things from Bishop Susan than I have from Janice and the others. A glass-is-half-full person, she is a warm, no-nonsense, and charismatic presence that makes you feel … well, positively hopeful for the future of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada. Raised in a Lutheran home, faith is first nature for her, and she is a leader who truly walks the walk: from trusting God's call so many years ago to maintaining a disciplined prayer life and supporting her church and other organizations through charitable giving.

What will I take away from my time with Bishop Susan? That's easy: her desire to touch people through her positive presence—to attempt to change the world one smile, one encounter, at a time. She has also made me think seriously about my own commitment to the church. As a woman with a weakness for shoes, I asked her recently how I might balance that desire for material objects with Christ's mandate to eschew worldly possessions. "First you need to make sure you're giving all you can—giving to the church and giving to others as well," she responded. "Then you can have some fun." If pressed, she too will confess to a love of shoes and is speaking from experience. Throughout her lifetime she has worked her way up to giving 10 percent of her gross income to the church. It's a fact that inspired me to do some of my own calculations. Suffice to say, there's some room for improvement in my tithing budget, and I'm excited and committed to start my lifelong journey toward closing the gap.

We all need examples in our lives of people who live and breathe their faith, those whose convictions seem to permeate everything they do. For me, anyway, Bishop Susan is evidence of what's possible, but she's also very savvy and very real, facing personal and faith struggles just as the rest of us do—with no illusions about the challenging work facing her and the church. Those of us who work out of the National Office are keenly aware of her strong presence on those rare days when she's in town. You might hear the former music teacher burst into song in the hallway (Jesus Christ Superstar, is one of her favourite movies) or let out a rich laugh that belies the demands of her call. We get the real Susan, and I hope our cover story on page 10 gives you a feel for who she is as a leader and a woman. Our intention was not to grill her about her first year as National Bishop or pin her down on same-sex blessings. Instead, we hope we've given you a personal glimpse of the woman who is leading the ELCIC's charge into an uncertain future, with a smile and a song.


Lucia Carruthers, Editor