Call her back later if her hair's on fire

Originally Posted Online: March 15, 2013, 2:30 am
Last Updated: March 16, 2013, 12:11 am
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By Leon Lagerstam,

DAVENPORT -- Hair-brained ideas pose far less risk than her hair-burning ones.

The Rev. Kendra Thompson once set her hair on fire, leaning over a candle to answer an intercom call on her desk phone in a Lawrence, Kan., church.

She was talking to a friend on her cellphone at the same time, and had to tell her "I'll have to call you back. My hair is on fire."

Rev. Thompson's now more careful around candles and telephones, but she's not timid when it comes to proposing what she calls "hair-brained ideas" as a minister of faith formation at Edwards Congregational, United Church of Christ.

Her title is just a new way to describe a Christian education director, she said.

When she decided to bury an "allelujah" banner in the church yard for Lent and dig it back up at Easter time to help represent the resurrection, "no one batted an eye," Rev. Thompson said. She also was given a supply of small shovels for kids to use to dig the hole.

"We have an ancient tradition that we're not to say 'allelujah' during Lent," she said. So burying the banner symbolized that tradition, too. "We did put it into a Ziplock bag and wrapped it in foil, just in case."

Plans are to dig it up the Wednesday after Easter and use it for a pageant the next weekend.

She knows the message got through to the kids. During Easter pageant rehearsals, at least one little boy now gasps when "allelujah's" are practiced, knowing it's a word they're not supposed to say during Lent, Rev. Thompson said.

"This church has given me the place to be creative," she said. "It's been great. I've also never been in a church where the environment has had so many female leaders."

She joins a staff led by senior pastor the Rev. Katherine Mulhern and music minister the Rev. Jean Norton.

"This is a really welcoming, opening and affirming congregation," Rev. Thompson said. "It's cool, and I'm having fun."

She learned about Edwards Congregational Church when her husband, Dr. John Thompson, was applying for a professorship at St. Ambrose University in Davenport. Someone at Ambrose introduced her to Rev. Mulhern.

Revs. Mulhern and Thompson later met for coffee, followed by a visit to the church.

"I am a sensory type of person, and I could feel it was a good place for me to be," Rev. Thompson said. "Edwards also has a tradition of keeping people around for a long time. Pastor Katherine's been here for about 14 years, and Pastor Jean's been here for about a dozen years."

Rev. Thompson's duties include leading a Sunday morning worship experience for kids, and Wednesday night events "that have taken the place of what most people think happens at Sunday school programs," she said.

Rev. Thompson said she also supervises the nursery, and has started working with high-school youth.

She has started a program for younger adults called "Quad City Mystery Pub," a group that meets in different establishments around town, as a way to build connections outside of church walls, she said.

Rev. Thompson also writes an entertaining "The Cafe in My Heart" blog featuring stories, poetry and other observations. Find it at

Just don't read it by candlelight while talking on the phone. That could be dangerous.

The Rev. Kendra Thompson
Address: Davenport.
Birth date: Sept. 3, 1981.
Education: Bachelor of Arts in English Literature, and a master's in theological studies; Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Austin, Texas, graduating in 2006; additional seminary studies at Phillips Theological Seminary, Tulsa, Okla.; ordained May 20, 2012, in Lawrence, Kan.
Experience: Lay ministry at several churches, including a Lutheran church in Fort Collins, Colo., a United Methodist Church, in North Kansas City, Mo., and a Disciple of Christ and Episcopal Church, both in Lawrence; and Edwards UCC since August.
Hometown: Booneville, Mo.
Family: Husband, Dr. John Thompson, social work professor at St. Ambrose University, Davenport; black Lab named Sydney.
Favorite Scripture: Psalm 32 .
Favorite Biblical character I'd like to meet: "I'd be interested to have an argument with the Apostle Paul."
Hobbies: "I like to run, knit and write a blog" -- crylaughsnort.wordpress
One thing I feel strongly about: "Making education around one's faith something that's fun, creative and interactive."


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