Words escape me today. Late yesterday, I received the news that Reverend Dr. Autura Eason-Williams was tragically and senselessly murdered in her driveway at her home as she attempted to prevent a car theft. Dr. Eason-Williams was in her second year as the District Superintendent of the Metro District in Memphis, TN.
The clergy and laity of the Tennessee-Western Kentucky Conference are grieving and in shock. Last night, over 200 gathered to remember and give thanks for Autura, for her life, her witness, her leadership, and her friendship. The outpouring of tears and love as we remembered Autura was a reminder of what an impact one person can have and the loss that is felt when one among us is taken from us unexpectedly.
We often quip that no one is irreplaceable. I will tell you, however, that I beg to differ with that sentiment. One can be replaced but the unique giftedness of a person cannot be replicated. Autura was uniquely gifted for mission and ministry. She navigated a cross-racial appointment as an early pioneer in that work in the legacy Memphis Conference. Her peers elected her to lead the clergy delegation to General Conference and endorsed her as a candidate for Bishop prior to the anticipated 2020 General Conference.
During the Global Pandemic, I invited Autura to join the Tennessee-Western Kentucky Appointive Cabinet. She was in the process of becoming one of our most gifted District Superintendents and was tackling some of our most difficult challenges. Two of the ministries Autura was leading for the Tennessee Western Kentucky Conference were the Signposts Seminars, engaging the work of systemic racism in our conference, and #BeUMC Campaign, an effort to highlight the positive aspects of being the United Methodist Church. More than these very tangible efforts, however, was Autura’s ministry of encouragement, especially to female clergy.
Autura, we will miss your laugh, your leadership, your love, your faithfulness, and your generous spirit. You modeled for us the words of Micah: “and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8. We give thanks to God for the ways you led and loved us well.