Adele Cole: A Forward-Thinking ‘Trailblazer’

Post a Comment » Written on January 9th, 2007     
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MINNEAPOLIS, MN (January 9, 2007) – Adele Cole’s roots reach back to the first days of the Evangelical Covenant Church, but she also is being remembered as a forward-thinking individual with a compassionate heart.

A memorial service for Cole, 81, was held at 11 a.m. this morning at Bethlehem Covenant Church. She died January 5 at Northwest Memorial Medical Center.

Whether it was expanding the role of women in the church or being among the first to advocate for hospice care, Cole always looked for new ways to combine her faith and her desire to serve others, says daughter Dee Cole Vodicka. She served many years as a hospital and hospice chaplain.

Cole’s grandfather, Carl Wilhelm Boquist, was one of only a handful of Covenanters to sign the original documents forming the Mission Covenant Church in Sweden and then to sign the charter organizing the Evangelical Covenant Church in the United States, to which he had immigrated, according to Vodicka. Cole’s parents helped start Bethlehem Covenant Church.

Cole was ordained in 1979, just three years after the denomination approved the ordination of women. “It was an incredibly powerful experience for her,” Vodicka says. “She felt overwhelmed, humbled and blessed to be one of the trailblazers.”

Trailblazing is rarely easy, however. An article in a 1979 copy of The Covenant Companion noted that at the upcoming Annual Meeting, “Delegates will be asked to approve for ordination in the Christian ministry 40 young men duly qualified and currently serving.” There was no mention of the fact that the group included a woman.

A feature on Cole that same year in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune recounts her reaction: “I can be a lot of things, but I cannot be a young man! I look at my brothers in the church and think, ‘You are my friends. Do you not know that half of your constituents are women?’ ”

The story also recounts the time that Cole began to doubt her own calling and asked God to give her a sign. “I walked into the room, and I can still see the man lying there. I didn’t really know him. He was just a 92-year-old man, and I was just going to pass the time of day with him. He was my answer.

“We got to talking. He took my hand and said, ‘In all my years, there’s only been one other time when I’ve had a sense of somebody’s call as clearly as I have a sense of your call.’ It was spooky because I came in to talk with him about what his needs were. And he was ministering to me.”

Cole began her journey to professional ministry later than many others of her time, writing in a 1975 article that “a wonderful thing happened to me on the way to becoming 40.”

Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross was a friend who encouraged her to enter hospital chaplaincy, because Cole wanted to combine her faith with care for the elderly. She subsequently earned her Clinical Pastoral Education license and received a ministry license in 1976 through the Covenant.

She was among the first to advocate on behalf of hospice care. “We have many professions whose interest involves the dying,” she wrote. “But it seems to me that the churches and the clergy are the ones to lead the way in offering creative changes in our society regarding attitudes toward care for the dying, and for leading us away from dehumanized dying.

“For this reason, I would like to continue on my pathway to find a place where this type of ministry will be accepted and utilized,” she continued. “Too often in our hospitals now, we merely prolong dying, rather than helping people really live until they die.”

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