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Women's social justice champion Linda Hollies dies

A UMNS Report
By Linda Green*
Aug. 30, 2007

The Rev. Linda Hollies

The Rev. Linda Hollies, a prolific author, motivational speaker and champion of issues around social justice for women, is dead at age 64.

Hollies was in Phoenix to give the keynote address and lead a workshop for a women's conference when her body was found Aug. 18 in her hotel room. The cause of death has not been determined.

A memorial service will be held Sept. 1 at Calvary United Methodist Church in Jackson, Mich., where she was pastor.

In lieu of flowers, Hollies had asked that donations go to the Rev. Linda Hollies Memorial Benefit Fund to help support her family. The fund has been established at LaSalle Bank in Jackson.

"Prior to her death, my mother had things in order. It was like she knew," said Grian Hollies, her daughter.

Hollies recently went on a book tour in the South where she saw and talked with people she knew and loved. "After thinking about it, it was like she was saying goodbye," her daughter said.

Breaking barriers

Appointed to Calvary United Methodist Church a year ago, Hollies was the first African-American and woman pastor of the 110-year-old predominantly white congregation. She also was the first African-American pastor of a mainline Protestant church in Jackson.

"Her death has been hard," said Bethany Chenoweth, chairwoman of Calvary's staff-parish relations committee. "She brought new ideas, new energy and new hope to our church. She was with us for too short a time."

Born in Gary, Ind., Hollies attended elementary and high school there. Her early careers included teaching and management jobs for General Motors and Ford Motor in Illinois. At age 40, she enrolled in United Methodist-related Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary and received a Master of Divinity degree. She earned a doctorate with a focus on black and womanist theology from United Theological Seminary. She served the staff of the West Michigan Annual (regional) Conference and was a former associate minister of New Hope Baptist Church.

Hollies helped to found the organization Black Clergy Women of the United Methodist Church.

"Shockwaves are flowing through the body of black clergywomen," said the Rev. Joyce Harris Scott, the group's president and pastor of Mason Memorial and Metropolitan Avenue United Methodist churches in Kansas City, Kan.

"(Dr. Linda) wrote many books and inspired many with her colorful effervescent personality. She will be sadly missed. Indeed a part of us is absent, but we know that Linda is now dancing with the angels among the heavenly host."

Scott described Hollies as an "eighth-century biblical prophet" because she "spoke the word of God uncompromisingly which moved people to see God in a different voice of shalom."

Prolific writer

Hollies produced a weekly e-mail newsletter called "In A Different Voice," distributed to many United Methodists and ecumenically. She wrote 30 books—many in women's inspiration—including Jesus and Those Bodacious Women: Life Lessons from One Sister to Another, Living Bountifully, Taking Back My Yesterdays: Lessons in Forgiving and Moving Forward and most recently Mother Goose Meets a Woman Called Wisdom, which puts a modern spin on classic nursery rhymes and Bible stories.

Hollies owned and operated Woman Space, a gathering place for healing women in Grand Rapids, Mich., and taught classes on cultural diversity, world religious traditions and grants and proposal writing for the University of Phoenix.

"Her pen, her passion, her scholarship and her faith journey will be sorely missed by the folks she knew and by the church she served," said Michigan Area Bishop Jonathan Keaton. "I am thankful that she passed my way."

The Rev. Gary Henderson, director of the United Methodist Global Health Initiative, said Hollies challenged others with her theological wisdom. "Her approach to Scripture and interpretation of Scripture was always thought-provoking," he said. "She walked the margins around biblical interpretation."

In addition to her daughter, Hollies is survived by her husband of 35 years, Charles, and a son, Gregory Everett, four brothers and two sisters. She was guardian to her grandson, Giraurd. Another son, Grelan Everett, preceded her in death.

*Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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