malcolm marler

on a mission to embody grace and compassion in all relationships

Month: April 2013

A Day to Remember

1917 Clinic 25th Anniversary Logo
Recently I participated in a Memorial Service for persons who have died of HIV/AIDS who were patients at The 1917 Clinic at UAB in its 25 year history.  I was a Chaplain at this world-class, compassionate HIV/AIDS Clinic from 1994-2009.  I was asked to have the opening prayer and you can find it below.  Peace. 
25th Anniversary
Memorial Service
April 27, 2013

Creator of LIFE and God of LOVE,

We gather today to remember those we loved:

Our mothers and fathers, our partners and spouses, our sons and daughters, and our brothers and sisters who are no longer with us due to a virus called HIV.

We gather to remember our past:

What it was like in the 1990‘s at The 1917 Clinic, when we received an email almost daily with the subject line, “Angel Wings” announcing that another patient, another member of our human family, had died of HIV/AIDS and its complications.

We gather to remember what’s important:

That compassion, care, and hugs are still the best medicines that we prescribe and dispense.

That taking our medicine and seeing our doctor is our lifeline for the future.

We gather to remember lessons our patients taught us:

That all persons, red and yellow, black and white, all are precious in your sight.

That all persons, all of us, fall short of perfection and if it were not for your grace, your forgiveness, we would all be in trouble.

That judgment is simply not a part of our human job description.

And that all Jews and Christians, Muslims and Hindus, Buddhists and all persons of faith and struggling faith, are called to love you with our whole heart, mind, and strength, and our neighbor as ourselves.

We gather to remember individuals who have made, and are making, a difference:

To give thanks for an amazing team of persons at the clinic, for our social workers and receptionists, our educators and data managers, our chaplains and interns, our researchers and phlebotomists, our patient volunteers and security guards, our counselors and environmental service workers, our nurses and nurse practitioners and physicians, and everyone who has contributed to this effort in this place, and throughout the world.

All of whom are known to You by first, middle, and last name.

And finally, we gather to look forward to the future with hope:

We pray for a world without HIV.

We pray for a day without stigma in our world . . .

whether it be for persons living with HIV, with mental illness, or those with a different color of skin of our own, or different accent, language, ethnicity, or religion, or for those with addictions, or discriminated against because of their age, or physical disabilities, or sexual orientation, or for any other reason under the sun.

And we pray for a day when everyone can say, “Peace be with you,” as we bless one another.


The Laying On of Hands

This post is part of a series on My Faith Journey.

Laying on of HandsWhen I was a junior in college and “felt the call” to ministry, I had no idea where this path would lead.  I just wanted to be open to God’s call in my life.

I knew I would have to be “ordained” if I was going to follow this path as my vocation and my job.  (More about ordination here .)

Each faith group has its own process that varies in time widely from a few weeks to several years.  I was ordained the first time by my home Baptist church when I was 22 years old as a seminarian.  It took just a few weeks.

My path and professional life over the next 30+ years gave me the opportunity to be a pastor, then an associate pastor and pastoral counselor in two congregations, a Chaplain in a HIV/AIDS Clinic, and now as a director of pastoral care at a hospital.

Along the way I followed my wife, Mary Bea Sullivan, to the Episcopal Church as we searched for a new spiritual home together after our marriage. (More about that here …)

So today, I am ordained (Baptist) in my work (Chaplain), and a lay person in my church (Episcopal). Nothing is wrong with that except I want to align my life professionally and personally.  Or put another way, I want to be who I am.  And so I entered a new process, and it has taken a few years in my new church. 

On Tuesday, May 21, 2013, I will be ordained by the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama at Grace Episcopal Church in Cullman, AL at 6:00 pm  as a “transitional Deacon.”  This is the first of two ordinations in the Episcopal Church to remind me of my humility (which is helpful), and then God willing, ordained as a priest in about 6 months or so.

Grace Church is the only Episcopal Church I’ve ever been a member of, and they are the people who have welcomed me and loved me through this process.  You are invited to join us for this blessing.  If you cannot come, your prayers are more than enough.

I plan to continue at the hospital because this is where I feel called to be for now.  That’s really all any of us can say.  After more than three decades I have no idea where this path will lead.  I just want to be open to God’s call in my life.

Finally, I want to share a secret with you.  We have something in common, you and me, because YOU too have been ordained already.

God’s hands were placed on your head at birth, and God was and is, blessing you, ordaining you right now.  Take a moment and just imagine that.  Breathe it in.  The God of the universe is ordaining you.

Hear God’s voice as God leans over to whisper in your ear, “Come and see what I have planned for you.”

This voice is the path to your vocation.  It is your calling.  It’s not so much about how you earn a living, as it is about how you are called to be a blessing to the world.  Be who you already are, you are invited to align your life and bless the world around you.

Where is your path leading you these days?  Can you imagine it?

Be open, come and see what God is planning for you.  And congratulations on your ordination.


Grace Episcopal Church
305 Arnold Street, NE
Cullman, AL 35055
Directions from Grace Episcopal Church website  
Google Maps turn by turn directions


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