It takes but a moment to realize that Dianne Delaney is a serious woman. Not boring. Not glum. Not stuffy. Far from it. She is joyful, funny and bursting with energy. And she has really interesting things to say! So we quickly agreed that we’d talk about hobbies, previous homes and the like AFTER she had shared a little about those life experiences which have shaped her faith and ministry.
It was 1967. The school was in East St. Louis, Illinois. Dianne, still very new to teaching (she had been in school herself three years before) was teaching a class of 35 10th grade young women, 34 of them black, one white. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had been murdered days before, and a silent parade was passing in front of the school. As Dianne told me, “Just before the passing bell to their first period, these young girls rose from their seats, went to the windows, and stood silently as that parade went by. Then they walked silently with heads held high to their classes. Their dignity and silent witness had a profound effect on me.”
Such courage and resolve created a hunger in Dianne to understand and identify with their protest. Racial justice has been a part of Dianne’s spiritual and political “furniture” ever since. Her work as director of an ethnically diverse daycare center in Santa Barbara, and later as a teacher there, only increased her passion for racial justice. She was later inspired to lead a group of white junior high students to Navajoland, to learn a little about native American culture.
Along with this important work, Dianne has found time to raise two children, pursue watercolor painting, embroidery and the piano, work as an assistant to an Episcopal associate rector, and lead a Godly Play group. She is currently a Democratic Precinct Committee Person right here in Multnomah County. And she loves liturgy, sermons and singing, (which this writer thinks may have something to do with her joining Grace!)
Dianne ended our conversation by reflecting on that moment in the East St. Louis classroom over 50 years ago, describing it as “a touchstone for my spiritual journey.” Her candor was a gift to me, and opened a window of personal reflection about the process of spiritual formation.
So, when you meet Dianne at coffee hour, be prepared for a wonderful, serious, spirit-jolting conversation. And plenty to think about afterwards!
Thank you, Dianne, for sharing your story. We rejoice that your journey has led you to Grace.