I love Your Voice Series: James McLemore


{A moonrise dust at the family farm}

Family: Married 30 years come July, Laura and I have three sons. Our oldest is legally blind and is a vagabond, quite happy and much too free. Our second is a new chemical engineer in Aberdeen Scotland, working offshore in the North Sea. Interestingly, he has returned to the land of our ancestor James McLemore who immigrated here in 1670. Our third is a playful high school senior.


Location in the world: My home is Montgomery, Alabama. I am named for our forebear Baptist preacher who settled here in 1817, and upon whose homestead we still cultivate a farm. He begot a long line of cotton planters, by whom I have untold numbers of cousins around here. We are not the Waltons but our ties bind.


Three favorites: The land of our family, my historic church, and the natural world. Sections of the family farm – including my parents’ home – are unchanged through several generations. They are simple and ordinary places really, where time pays no attention. Our Episcopal parish, St. John’s Church, is deep rooted too. Founded in 1834, the church is an inspiring blend of old and new generations, forward leaning with a respectful nod to its past. Baptized there as an infant, I suppose I am one of its many relics. Our bio-diverse state, on the other hand, is anything but a relic (politicians are another matter). It is a marvel of evolution of life. Nature nourishes through all our senses, and there I feast.


Calling: Calling is adventure. The practice of law has been a good fit and provides me a voice in varied fields which other professions don’t afford. I aim for reason and helpfulness, building not destroying. I love volunteering with nonprofits, mainly culture and art, the medically underserved, and the church — from children’s teacher to Bishop’s advisor.


God and redemption: At age 18 while reflecting on the Milky Way one sleepless night, I changed. I had a sudden and intense awareness of a consuming presence of love and of harmony with all that exists. It lasted less than a minute but left an enduring mark. Long after, I read of such accounts from mystics (e.g. Thomas Merton) and scientists (e.g. Andrew Newberg). What I experienced was real, regardless of cause. Everything thereafter has filtered through that moment. Holy Scripture seems to have emanated from such awareness, and I am convinced that through that tradition we can know God.

Storm Renewal: I see in nature a hurricane of creation, changing constantly but becoming new by building upon the old. I find renewal by folding myself into its rhythms and accepting the changes offered me too. It’s easy here where the climate is moderate and the seasons well delineated. When the community shares that vision — critical for the church — together we renew and grow. I cherish how all this is reflected in the visual and literary arts and, well, there too I feast.

Thank you so much for sharing your voice. Read a beautiful guest post by James McLemore.

An Invitation for Renewal

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A Guest Post by: James McLemore. 

{What a gift to receive a note from a new friend of About Proximity all the way from Alabama. James has a sweet and powerful reflection to share with us. I’m so thankful he took the time to offer it to us, it spoke to my heart.} 


Fifteen years teaching the 6th grade church confirmation class has made me weary. My own three sons passed through here long ago and are now grown. Is there anyone to take this baton? I gave the rector of our Episcopal parish a year’s notice – this would be my final term.


On kick-off Sunday, a record number of students appeared in our room. Expecting chaos, I found, instead, a community of engaged and intellectually curious children. Their large number generated a sustained energy which they seemed to surf.

I addressed them as usual. We would journey to their infant baptism where their parents had vouched for their commitment to our Lord. We would revisit those vows and claim them for their own. We would renew baptism.

Their faces reflected excitement which I was unused to. “We’re going to be baptized again?” The “we” part of their question included me. Why not, I thought. Renewal for everyone.

The beginning of everything involved water, so says Genesis. So does baptism, and so will our renewal.


In May of this year I made a quick personal trip to Holland, Michigan. It is a distant and different land from my home in the Deep South. Before rushing back, I rose early to visit the shore of Lake Michigan. The enormous lake was at rest, the sky cloudless and the sun brilliant. All seemed to have paused, inviting me into its natural, original – maybe primitive – state. Were the waters of the Jordan as welcoming at Jesus’ baptism?

I stood still for the longest time, gazing at water too big to see. We become our memories and I wanted this one to be in front.  My mind cleared and I wanted to stay much longer. But nothing waits forever and I had to get on the road and into traffic. Even the lake would be a tempest by mid afternoon.

As my class invited me to join them on their journey of renewal, they reminded me of Lake Michigan. Here was their invitation to return to water, to be refreshed and renewed. It promises to wash away weariness and join us all in the exciting embrace of the holy. We cannot do this alone, and for me, children show the way.


My notice to the rector is on hold.


McLemore-James-H_-2012-308x463I am a sixth-generation resident of Montgomery, Alabama and my wife Laura and I have three sons. I am an attorney in private practice. I am a lifelong member of St John’s Episcopal Church and teach the youth confirmation class here, in addition to many other roles in the church.