Children's needs led to calling

A DIFFERENT PATH TO THE MINISTRY

December 27, 1992|By Robin Stauffer | Robin Stauffer,Contributing Writer

The Rev. Michelle "Mikki" Bond, assistant to the rector at St. James Episcopal Church in Monkton, is not your typical priest.

Not just because women priests remain a minority in the Episcopal Church and not just because she didn't enter the seminary until six years ago at age 41.

For one thing, there's her religious upbringing. Her father is Jewish, and her mother has explored many religions.

And Mrs. Bond was happy staying at home with her children and wasn't looking for a job, much less a calling.

"My husband, Ron, wanted me to go back to work when my youngest was approaching school age," she says. "But he was probably thinking I would return to teaching."

Mrs. Bond received her bachelor's degree in elementary education in 1967 from Pepperdine University in Los Angeles, where she grew up. Like many young people in the '60s, she surfed, wrote poetry on the beach and even spent a year of college in Germany. There she met Mr. Bond, and they married soon after she graduated.

After traveling in Germany for a year, the couple settled in his hometown of Baltimore. She taught in the public and private schools until the birth of her son Ron III, now 17. Their other children are Amanda, 15, and Randy, 12.

"I was very, very happy to be at home with my children. I was active in many things like the La Leche League, the PTA and food co-ops," says Mrs. Bond.

She discovered the Episcopal Church at a natural foods co-op at the Church of the Redeemer on Charles Street.

Like her mother, Mrs. Bond visited different churches, wanting her children to have a religious background.

"It's very common," says Mrs. Bond. "People who haven't been to church in years have children and realize they need a spiritual base."

She liked the Church of the Redeemer so much that she began attending services and persuaded her husband to join her. "We felt like we had found a home," she says.

She soon became active in the church. Financial reasons compelled her to go back to work once her youngest child started school.

The assistant rector, the Rev. Noreen Craley, had worked closely with Mrs. Bond and was the first to suggest she might have a calling.

Mrs. Bond recalls her first reaction -- to "laugh and laugh and laugh."

But Ms. Craley proved a big influence in her life.

Says Mrs. Bond: "I'm always full of ideas, and she was always willing to try my ideas. She was the first person who took me seriously, who said it was OK to make mistakes. She helped and supported and encouraged anything I wanted to do."

Mrs. Bond began seriously considering the priesthood, taking part in the church's Ministry Exploration Process.

"I decided to let the process lead me," she says. "If it was a good experiment, I would go on to the next step."

Her decision to enter the seminary proved difficult. It required a TC three-year residency, and the closest seminary was in Alexandria, Va. There, she went from full-time wife and mother to a seminary student with a room to herself and no household chores except laundry.

"It was harder on Ron than on me," she says. "I don't know how he did it. He worked full-time and had to take over all the household duties, which had been my job. I don't know if I would have done it for him."

After being ordained in 1989, Mrs. Bond became assistant to the Rev. Heyward Macdonald at St. James. Mr. Macdonald wanted someone to develop the youth and Sunday school programs, a prospect Mrs. Bond found appealing.

"We make a good team," she says. "I have no interest in the administrative duties, and I free up his time so he can do them."

As for her parents, Audrey and Edward Bomze are proud and happy for their daughter.

"My father tells everyone how he, a Jew, raised a priest," Mrs. Bond says. "And my mother gets upset when I won't wear my collar while I'm visiting them in Los Angeles on vacation."

Mrs. Bond finds the twice-weekly sermons her biggest challenge.

"Its always on the back of my mind," she says. "I'm always thinking about my next sermon. It's also one of the most rewarding and spiritual things I do because in 10 minutes I can have a profound influence on people's lives."

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