Our testimony for Cara
By Lydia and Russell Aldridge
Previous young adult members of North Canton Faith UMC
Cara officiated their wedding
Cara came into our lives just when we needed her. We had struggled to find community where we felt welcomed with our doubts, our critiques and our creativity. Cara’s way of creating safety, holding space for curiosity, and extending compassion was something we had never seen in a local church. We came to Faith United Methodist as a young couple out of undergrad in 2012. We were in awe of her leadership and had not previously experienced the pastoral care that Cara so gracefully poured over and into her congregation. I (Lydia) was craving a community where women were encouraged and empowered to lead. We were drawn to Cara’s ability to call folks into the pursuit of justice and acceptance of all people, and to do it in a way that exuded humility and patience, knowing that shame had no place in her ministry. The foundation of our marriage was brought up in her ministry, and the gifts that she shared were transformative for us.
Cara’s presence as a Bishop in the local and global church can usher in a newness that we are desperate for. Cara’s ability to share ‘power with’ is hard to come by. As someone who has been harmed too often by church leaders, the Church and the world needs her voice leading the way. Cara’s call to Bishop in The United Methodist Church is one that I can fully affirm and stand behind. Her prophetic voice is tender and authentic, reminding me of God the Mother who lovingly holds me close. I think about the Spirit moving in and through her as she meets folks at the intersections of life’s greatest obstacles. The hope Cara holds for the future of The United Methodist Church is one that inspires me. I see her modeling what is to come with such courage and perseverance. As Rev. Dr. Katie Geneva Cannon said, “Do the work your soul must have!” I see you, Cara — I see you doing the work for not just your soul, but for the collective soul and life of the Church.
To me (Russell), Cara is the embodiment of what it means to reflect the ministry of Jesus in both her work and her relationships. Having felt both burn-out and disillusionment in my previous church experiences in more non-denominational, ‘mega-church’ settings prior to attending Faith UMC, Cara welcomed Lydia and I and assured us that we belonged in that church community. While unrelated to my experience at Faith UMC, my personal beliefs have shifted dramatically over the past few years to the point where I am no longer a regular member or attendee of a church community. That being said, the last time I saw Cara, she encouraged me and empathized with my struggles, and she did so without a hidden agenda and without making me feel like a token ‘non-believer’ who needed to be prayed for, saved, and the works. I see Cara as a bridge builder in her ministry and leadership, and I believe she creates psychological and social safety in the ways she interacts with those around her, including those within and outside of the church as well as those who have been historically marginalized and oppressed. I can’t think of someone who would better exemplify the shepherding mindset and leadership required of a Bishop to lead the church today and in the days ahead.