February 24, 2022
The Reverend Craig Peter Lemming is a consummate learner, teacher and leader whose ministry focuses on continuing the legacies of the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu and The Rev. Pauli Murray, among others. Fr. Craig is committed to advance the work of anti-racism, decolonization, and justice and equity for all, and is passionate and compassionate about building community, cultivating love and empowering young leaders.
Fr. Craig was born and raised in Harare, Zimbabwe. In 2001, he moved to the United States to study music, obtaining a Bachelor of Music degree from New England Conservatory of Music and a Master of Music degree from Indiana University. It wasn’t until 2013 that he entered United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities for his Master of Divinity degree. He was ordained a Transitional Deacon in 2015, and ordained a Priest in 2017. Since then, Fr. Craig has served as the Associate Rector of St. John the Evangelist Episcopal Church in Saint Paul, Minnesota, and Vice Chair of Board of Circle of the Beloved. He recently joined the Diocese of the Episcopal Church in Minnesota’s inaugural Racial Justice & Healing Formation Team.
In May 2021, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Fr. Craig started his doctoral studies – Doctor of Ministry (which is designed to allow students to remain working in their ministry base while they complete their degree) – with the Faculty of Divinity at Trinity College. Although he has taken his coursework online from his home in Saint Paul, Minnesota, he says he feels the close-knit, caring community of faculty, staff and students even though he is some 1,500 km away. He looks forward to the day when he can visit the College for the first time, and experience the John W. Graham Library and the Chapel in person.
We sat down (virtually) with Fr. Craig to find out what drew him to priesthood and higher learning, what inspires and is most important to him, and what his life is like amid the pandemic.
Trinity College (TC): Can you talk about your journey to ministry?
The Rev. Craig Lemming (CL): My Roman Catholic father and Anglican mother raised my older brother and me in a “catholic yet protestant” home and provided us with a Jesuit education, which we completed at Saint George’s College in Harare. Several priests, a deacon, and dear friends encouraged me to discern a vocation to the priesthood in my late teens and throughout my twenties. I finally entered formal discernment when I turned 30 in 2012. I was inspired by the lives, ministries and wisdom of Desmond Tutu, Pauli Murray, and Howard Thurman and I felt called by God to build upon their legacies.
TC: Why did you select to study at Trinity for your Doctor of Ministry (DMin) degree?
CL: I chose to study at Trinity College because of the superb faculty, strong network of alumni in the Anglican Communion, and the excellent educational resources for theological research and praxis. As a Priest in The Episcopal Church my learning objective is to deepen, broaden and ground my knowledge and praxis of ministry in an Anglican theology that is more robustly decolonial and antiracist. In so doing, my goal is to more effectively serve those within the parish church and those who are on the margins of religious institutions and dominant culture to build kinship across lines of difference.
TC: What do you enjoy most about being a priest?
CL: I love witnessing God’s love transform lives through individuals in community who are partnering with God’s creative, redemptive and comforting Spirit to make all things new together. I enjoy praying, studying, being a compassionate listening presence, teaching, preaching, and administering the sacraments in community. I love being challenged and inspired by twenty-somethings who want to decolonize the church and the world as antiracist followers of the way of love.
TC: As a Black church leader, can you share your thoughts about the importance of diversity, inclusion and representation in the church?
CL: If we don’t see a multiplicity of races, genders, sexualities, abilities, ages, social classes, educational backgrounds, nationalities, tastes, and languages represented in all four orders of ministry in the church, then we are not in right relationship with the kaleidoscopic, dynamic and vibrant beauty of God’s marvelous Creation.
TC: If you could spend the day with anyone (historical or living), who would it be and why?
CL: Pauli Murray! A poet, lawyer, professor, priest and saint of the Episcopal Church, Pauli Murray embodied God’s reconciled diversity as a Black, multiethnic, gender-fluid, working-class, intersectional Christian icon. Murray’s life, work and legacy of working for justice and equity for people of all races, genders and social classes in society and in the Episcopal Church is the inspiration behind my Doctor of Ministry degree, my life and work as a priest, and my ongoing commitment to decolonizing my own personhood so that I can liberate others from the racist, imperial, colonial policies and practices of white supremacy.
TC: Any words of advice for those who are interested in theological studies or ministry?
CL: Pray; make time for silence, stillness and solitude; study something good, true and beautiful everyday in a book, podcast or film; cultivate two or three genuine friendships outside of your life in ministry and laugh together at the insanity of it all; drink lots of water; let go of ego-projections (others’ and your own); and think creatively about Jesus every day.
TC: What are your future plans?
CL: I want to continue working with faith communities and young adult leaders who want to decolonize the church and our society and build kinship across all lines of difference.
TC: What are some fun facts about yourself?
CL: I am an INFJ, an Enneagram Type 4, and a Pisces. I love visiting art museums and sculpture gardens, attending music concerts, and walking the beautiful parks and lakes in the Twin Cities metro. As an introvert, I love enjoying a meal with two or three friends, going to the cinema or to hear the Minnesota Orchestra. I only read hard copy books and I listen obsessively to music on records and CDs. I am a firm believer in the problem-solving power of drinking tea, daydreaming, walks, listening to J.S. Bach and napping.
(Photos courtesy of the Rev. Craig Lemming)
SINCE THE START OF THE PANDEMIC, WHAT IS/HAS BEEN…
TC: …the one thing that you look forward to every day/week?
CL: Going on a walk.
TC: …the one thing that you dread to do every day/week?
TC: …your most surprising moment?
CL: Enjoying my own cooking.
TC: …your biggest challenge?
CL: Managing compassion fatigue.
TC: …the thing you miss, or miss doing, the most?
CL: Happy hours with friends and colleagues.
TC: …the best way for you to stay/feel connected with others?
CL: Text messages and postcards.
TC: …your most memorable technology fail or success?
CL: Being unable to mute a Zoom attendee who was having a private conversation that our entire Zoom meeting room could hear.
TC: …the one thing you enjoy the most about learning remotely?
CL: No commute.
TC: …the one thing you enjoy the least about learning remotely?
CL: Not being able to socialize after classes.
TC: …your new-found hobby or activity?
TC: …the one thing you purchased that you would have never have bought before?
CL: KN95 masks.
TC: …your (new) favourite food or item to eat/cook/bake?
CL: Strong Ginger Beer.
TC: …your favourite way to spend time at home?
CL: Listening to music.
TC: …the last show/series you binge-watched?
CL: MasterClass: Black History, Freedom & Love
TC: …a movie/series you recommend to others?
CL: Call the Midwife.
TC: …the thing you can now do without?
CL: Refraining from hugs.
TC: …the thing you can now not live without?
CL: Moving all monthly committee meetings to Zoom.
TC: …the thing that brings you the most joy/happiness?
CL: Family and friends sharing their good news.
TC: …the first thing you will do when the pandemic is over?
CL: Invite friends over for dinner, drinks, hugs and dancing to Motown records.
TC: …the best lesson or thing you learned that you will continue post-pandemic?
CL: Never squander or take for granted the gift of being able to gather in person.
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