FORT WAYNE—It is said that the reward of a life well-lived in service is eternal peace in heaven. While there are many ways to serve, the ministry often is considered the most noble. There’s another saying: Many are called but few are chosen. That said, it is a tremendous honor to be accepted into the ministry during this life. But, it’s a special testament to someone’s work when he or she is chosen to represent the ministry of the Lord after he or she has departed this earth.
Last month, the family of Sister Sandra Craig-Ridley was informed that she had been ordained as an itinerant elder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. While the AME has a long and proud tradition of ordaining women ministers, appointing them pastors and even electing them bishop, Sis. Ridley’s honor is extraordinary—and perhaps unprecedented—for the church. Her ordination comes nearly a year after she passed away following a long bout with cancer at age 54.
A graduate of Indiana University with a masters in public administration from the revered Harvard University, Ridley, just prior to her passing, had been enrolled in a masters of divinity program at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Hamilton, Ma., and was a member of the historic Bethel AME Church in Boston, Although she went on to glory before the annual conference confirming new ministers met, her pastor, the Rev. Dr. Ray A. Hammond and the New England annual Conference Board of Examiners recommended her name still be referred to the New England Annual Conference Committee on “Memoirs.” Her ordination was confirmed at that conference held April 8 through April 12 in Norwalk, Conn., by the Rt. Richard F. Norris, bishop of the AME Church 7th Episcopal District.
Representatives of the church delivered the news and Sis. Ridley’s parents—mother Lovilee Johnson and step-father Joe. A. Johnson during a recent visit to the area. The Johnsons’ home pastor, the Rev. Kenneth Christmon of Turner Chapel AME Church in Fort Wayne, read the proclamation regarding Sis. Ridley’s ordination during a recent service with the Johnsons standing before the church and indicated that, to his knowledge, it was the first time the AME Church had ordained someone as an itinerant elder posthumously—licensing them to preach in and pastor any AME Church—to his knowledge.
Pastor Christmon called it an extraordinary testament to the tradition of service that Sis. Ridley had shown to the community throughout her life.