02 December, 2008

A Badass Saint

I got news today that my friend Kathleen died of cancer. Lots of folks were closer to Kathleen than I was, knew her better and will better eulogize her than I can. But I do want to offer a sort of public prayer of thankgiving for what Kathleen meant to me and so many other folks.

Rev. Kathleen Baskin-Ball was a badass. (She also had a cool and funny hyphenated name.)

As a young, single (and thoroughly white) woman, Kathleen accepted a call to start a new United Methodist church in downtown Dallas in a Hispanic neighborhood. So, she went to Mexico for a 5 week class, became fluent in Spanish and started Nueva Esperanza in West Dallas. On Sunday mornings, she preached and led worship in Spanish and English, alternating between the two to make sure eveyone was part of the family. In this tragically poor part of the city, she founded a church of vibrancy and rich hope.

Kathleen's youth group at Nueva Esperanza included a number of young men who were torn between the church and the gangs that plague our cities. She loved those kids with a tough compassion that refused to give them up to the scourge of drugs and violence and refused to count them as lost.

After Kathleen left Nueva Esperanza she served two other churches, loving those folks no less compassionately and no less fiercely.

Kathleen was a nationally-known, Really Important United Methodist Pastor (for goodness' sake, she has a Wikipedia page!), but she always just felt like a friend. The last time I saw Kathleen I was in seminary and working at FUMC Allen, Texas. Kathleen was serving at Suncreek UMC, also in Allen. We were both at some pastoral function or another. I hadn't seen her in several years, so I went to re-introduce myself. Kathleen turned and beamed, grabbing me in a hug, "Clay! How are you? How's Perkins?"

As much as I remember Kathleen for what she did and said, I mostly remember that I laughed a lot in her presence.

Tough and tender. Full of God's fierce love. Unafraid. And laughing often.

Thanks be to God for my friend Kathleen.

God help us, we need more badass saints like her.

much love, much peace, etc.


  1. Sorry to hear of the passing of your friend. She sounds like quite a woman. You are so right, we need more bad-ass saints. We are all too worried about breaking-a-nail to get in and do the dirty work. God bless

  2. Yes, badass. Exactly my thought. Well, maybe not exactly. Inspiring is really the word I was thinking of. Did you see that she baptized 37 people--THIRTY-SEVEN!!--two days before she died? In her home. Awesome.

  3. Aad on Sunday evening before dying early Tuesday morning, her youth choir came to her home to sing. She took each youth, embraced their face with her hands, and told each one that she loved and God loved them.
    The evening before, as Nashville recording artists sang to her in a private home concert, she also took each one in her embrace, and asked them what their favorite food is. One band member said "lasagna". Kathleen's response: I will have a pan of hot lasagne ready for you in heaven."
    She touched lives in earthy, tangible, and holy means. I miss her.