A personal reflection on a priest and a friend
By: June Huber
When I read in “e-Communique” that the Diocese was looking for stories and reflections about women who play “meaningful and important roles as clergy and lay leaders,” I immediately thought of my friend, Jo Belser. Knowing that she would never submit anything about herself, I talked her into an interview over coffee at Starbuck’s.
To clarify, my friend is the Rev. Jo Belser, rector of Resurrection Episcopal Church in Alexandria. If I had to describe her in one sentence, I would say that she not only thinks outside the box, she lives outside the box.
Jo is helping the parishioners at Resurrection think outside the box as they envision a future for themselves that includes a new facility, partnership with a developer, housing for low-income residents, and a robust version of evangelism that will reach out to people who have been marginalized. “Who knows how it will play out?” she says. “We’re doing what God is calling us to do. Each piece keeps falling into place. And you can accomplish anything if you don’t care who gets the credit.”
Although she rarely talks about it these days, Jo is one of the women of this Diocese who broke new ground and paved the way for others. To my knowledge, she was the first openly-gay person to be ordained in our Diocese; and she and her wife, Lenore Funkhouser, were the first gay couple to be blessed in marriage by Bishop Johnston. Neither of these outcomes could be assumed with any certainty when Jo began each process; however, as she says, “You have to put yourself out there. You might get shot down, but you have to take the risk.”
Jo Belser served as a Naval Intelligence Officer for more than a decade, and then worked as a professional services consultant. In the mid-1990s she “felt called to work in a church,” so she served as parish administrator for two different churches. I remember when she first told me about her call to be a priest. I wasn’t really surprised; God’s call for her “to work in a church” was continuing, just in a new way.
Do you know an inspiring and faithful woman leader – lay or ordained? We invite you to submit your stories, especially as you hear the stories of other men and women about the impact that the leadership of women has had in their lives.