Look around. If you chose seven belongings whose stories would impart an understanding of who you are and the life you’ve lived, what would those things be?
Story & Photographs Birney Imes
When she was a schoolgirl growing up in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area, Raigan Miskelly’s parents told her she could be anything she wanted to be when she grew up.
“I must have heard that a million times,” said Miskelly, now 37. She is sitting in her book-lined study at First United Methodist Church in Columbus where she has been pastor for three years.
“ … except play football,” her father said. Little did he know. Raigan, then in the third grade, could now think of nothing else. A compromise was reached; she would play one year. And what a glorious year it was. The Lake City Countertops, aka the LITTLE AGGIES, won the state championship. With a girl quarterback even. For her efforts, Miskelly, along with her teammates, received oversized championship belt buckles.
Football was easy to give up; after all there was SMOKY to take care of.
When she was 3, she had asked her father for a horse.
“Not today,” he answered with a wave of the hand.
“When can I have one?” she persisted.
“Oh, when you’re 10,” he said, assuming the matter closed.
In the meantime, Raigan fell in love with an Arabian that was not for sale. When she turned 10, she reminded her father of his promise.
“Raigan, I made you a promise, and daddies always keep their promises,” her father told her. As a pastor and student of the Bible, she is quick to draw parallels between her father’s actions and a father in Genesis who keeps his promises.
By the time she was 16, sports, namely TENNIS, had supplanted Smoky, and with the highly competitive youth tennis circuit in Texas, Raigan was learning a thing or two about tenacity.
“I got beat and beat,” she says.
She was good at it, though, good enough to earn a scholarship at Centenary College of Louisiana in Shreveport.
Somewhere along the way, the former quarterback decided she wanted to be a youth minister when she grew up. As she saw it, it was a swell gig: You are paid to go to the beach in the summer and snow ski in the winter.
Her junior year in high school Miskelly told her pastor she wanted to be a preacher.
“You can’t talk that way,” he said. Little did he know.
When a position opened up at Grace Community Church in her college hometown, Miskelly applied. She was 19 and conflicted. A student athlete just entering college, she had enough to concern herself with as it was.
She tried to say “no” to the job; she tried three times.
“Every time I opened my mouth, I said yes.”
She worked as a youth minister throughout college and considers the experience one of the great blessings of her life.
After undergraduate school, Miskelly spent what seemed a quick two-and-a-half years in seminary on the West Coast. While in California she met and fell in love with a Mississippi boy named ROCKY, who was working as a financial consultant for churches. They’ve been married 13 years and have four children.
Back in Mississippi she taught at Millsaps a year and then served as associate pastor at churches in Florence and Tupelo.
When asking a pastor to choose seven things that reveal the narrative of her life, it’s not a surprise to find a BIBLE among the items chosen. In Miskelly’s case, it’s a Bible that belonged to Fred Biggs, her mother’s father, who had died when her mother was 10 years old.
Like his granddaughter, Biggs had been an athlete, a pitcher for the Memphis Chicks.
“I remember growing up and playing cards, and grandma reading to me from that book,” Miskelly said.
She cites the CHURCH as a constant in her life.
“I believe the church is the hope of the world,” she said. “It’s an amazing venue for learning how to love God, self and neighbor.
Miskelly cherishes her STOLE, a brightly colored sash-like vestment she wears in the pulpit. It was given to her by her mentor at her Shreveport church.
Before her ordination ceremony at Christ United Methodist in Jackson, Miskelly was in the restroom preparing for the event. The stole was hanging on a hook. A young girl entered the restroom and took stock of Miskelly and her accoutrements.
“Are you a preacher?” the little girl asked.
Miskelly said she was.
“Goooolly,” the little girl said. “I’ve never seen a girl preacher before.”
You can be sure Miskelly said nothing to discourage that little girl from whatever dreams that encounter might have sparked.
“A baton was passed in that moment,” she said.