Apr. 16, 2012
The Rev. Rebecca Herring was a great storyteller whose sermons painted unforgettable pictures, a minister whose unadorned conversations with God taught others how to pray, and a leader whose kindness and service turned skeptics of women as clergy into loyal friends.
Now she will be remembered in perpetuity at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology for her mentorship of women, thanks to a gift from her husband of 41 years, Lee Herring. He has created the Rebecca Redd Herring Endowment for Women in Pastoral Ministry in memory of his wife, who earned a Master of Divinity degree from Candler in 1995.
“Rebecca loved the Emory campus. She loved the people. She loved everything about Candler. As important as Candler was to Rebecca, and as important as it was to her to support other women in ministry, I could think of no better way to honor her,” Lee Herring said.
The endowed fund will provide stipends for female United Methodist students in the master of divinity degree program who are preparing for ordained pastoral ministry. Preference will be given to students from the North Alabama or North Georgia conferences of The United Methodist Church, although funds may be awarded to those from other denominations. The awards will be made through the Candler Advantage program, which extends students’ professional education and strengthens their practical skills for church leadership by immersing them in congregations for 10 weeks of full-time ministry.
Rebecca Herring began working in The United Methodist Church when the Herrings’ two sons, now 30 and 34, were in daycare at East Lake United Methodist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. She found much in common with senior minister Larry Dill, and he became her mentor, suggesting she complete her undergraduate degree and pursue a Master of Divinity degree.
When Lee Herring’s job with Allstate Insurance transferred him to Atlanta in 1987, the couple joined Mt. Bethel United Methodist Church and began a friendship with associate pastor Alice Rogers. Now an associate professor at Candler School of Theology and director of Candler’s Teaching Parish and Contextual Education II programs, Rogers encouraged Rebecca Herring to follow Dill’s advice.
After graduating Magna Cum Laude from Kennesaw State University, Herring went on to earn an MDiv degree from Candler School of Theology in 1995. The United Methodist Church appointed her to Sandy Springs United Methodist Church that year, and she became the first female associate pastor in the church’s 150-year history. It was a challenging transition for the new pastor, and she handled it with grace and kindness, Lee Herring says.
“At the end of her time there, she was absolutely endeared to the congregation because she was able to make a difference in so many people’s lives.”
In 2000 she was appointed to Georgia’s Cumming First United Methodist Church, where she remained until multiple myeloma required her to take medical leave in 2010. She passed away in late December 2011 after a 38-month battle with the disease.
Many of Rebecca Herring’s prayers have been published in a book with an accompanying CD featuring her reading them. The volume will be reprinted for the second time, and a copy will be given to each recipient of the Rebecca Redd Herring Endowment for Women in Pastoral Ministry. The intent, Lee Herring says, is for recipients to gain an understanding of who his wife was.
“She was one of the most creative thinkers I’ve ever known. She could write such eloquent passages and had a beautiful vision that she could help people to see,” he says. “In some ways, making this gift is therapeutic for me. It creates a lasting legacy for Rebecca and supports something that was so important to her. I feel like it was meant to be.”
The endowment supports Candler School of Theology’s priorities in Campaign Emory, Emory University’s $1.6 billion fund-raising endeavor that combines private support and Emory’s people, places, and programs to make a powerful contribution to the world.
Those interested in making gifts to the Herring Endowment in memory of Rebecca Redd Herring may send contributions to Candler School of Theology, Office of Development and Alumni Relations, 1531 Dickey Drive, Atlanta, GA 30322.