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I Am Changed (Part II)

Dear Mama,

That’s your new name now.

There are moments of panic wondering if you really are going to be able to do this, but there are no email or text message alert to let you know today was the day you were going to become Mama.

It doesn’t work like that.

You might think that day is the same day your baby is born or you married their daddy or you signed the adoption papers, but it’s not.

It’s the day you look in the mirror and see yourself as Mama.

You’ll know this is happening because you stare back at your reflection and see a stranger. You honestly won’t recognize the woman who is looking back at you.

The doubts and questions will start running through your head with the full understanding that you are truly responsible for another human being, another life, another light bearer, another creation filled with the divine breath.

At that moment, you may look at your reflection and cry or laugh or panic or stare in speechless disbelief because:

this child changes normal.

this child changes everyday.

this child changes routine.

this child changes budgets.

this child changes everything.

I am changed.

I am Mama.

Read I am changed the original post

On Pastoring an Open and Affirming Congregation

When I came to Emmanuel as the Interim Pastor, I didn’t know that this was a congregation who was breaking stereotypes and setting the stage for what it means to be an open and affirming congregation. What I did know was that they were brave enough to ask a non-ordained student to be their Interim Pastor.

As our journey together began, I wondered if this would be the congregation to ordain me (call me old school baptist, but I believe that the church is still the body who ordains and calls for ordination rather than ordination being just another step once you graduate from seminary). I got my answer on a Wednesday night when one of the members asked, “So are you going to let us ordain you?”

I just smiled. I was thrilled.

I was even more thrilled to learn that I would be the sixth woman ordained at this rather young ten-year old church. Not only that, but the church in its history had not (and still has not) ordained a man. Let me be clear that it isn’t that the church wouldn’t consider ordaining a man (isn’t that strange to write), but rather that the men who have come through our congregation were already ordained. Of these six women, some are white, some are black; some are heterosexual, some are homosexual; some are married, some are single, some are divorced. This is an open and affirming congregation because it hasn’t been these labels that have been deciding factors for whether ordination is right, but it has been the faith and life of the the individuals.

Because of this history, our congregation is truly diverse. We have people who are heterosexual. We have people who are homosexual. We have people who are divorced. We have people who are single. We have people who are certain of their faith. We have people who are searching for their faith. We have individuals who believe in the importance of being able to be yourself in the midst of being the people of God and loving each other for who we are.

This is a unique community of faith. One that is real and authentic. One in which you don’t have to pretend, but rather gather together in the knowledge that each of us is still becoming, still learning, still growing. Thanks be to God that we can do it together.

 

Coming Out as a Baptist Woman Preacher

The familiar anxiety crept into my stomach. It always happened when I ran into someone from my home church. I knew the conversation that was about to happen, I had engaged in it many times before:

How are you?

I’m great! How are you?

Great, what in the world are you up to?

Well, I’m actually pastoring a church.

You’re what?

I’m pastoring a baptist church in Lexington, SC.

Really? And it’s a baptist church?

Yeah, I’ve been there about 18 months.

That’s crazy.

Or something to that effect. Sometimes the responses are more hurtful. Sometimes the responses are more supportive. The thing is I never know how the conversation is going to go. I still get nervous about these conversations with people from my evangelical baptist background because of the initial conversations I had with friends, family, and my home church about being called to be a preacher.

I knew that the doctrinal stance of my faith tradition was that women weren’t allowed to be preachers or pastors and yet, I really thought that the people I had grown up with would not be surprised by my call to ministry. I thought I was going to be different because I had grown up in the church, I had participated in the church,  surely voicing a call to ministry wouldn’t be that much of a surprise.

It was. It is to a lot of people.

It’s taken me four years before I can really unpack those initial conversations. They were hurtful and shocking because they questioned a very part of who I was as an individual, but with some distance and really good guidance from colleagues who had to have the same conversation, my hurt didn’t turn into bitterness. It turned into compassion.

I have come to realize that the hurtful comments although directed at me weren’t personal towards me, but were reactionary because standing before the people who had known me my whole life, was a theological paradox. How could someone who have been raised in a tradition that didn’t believe women were ever called to be pastors and certainly not preachers say they were called to preach? How could someone who for 25 years had never seen a woman preacher, much less a baptist woman preacher see herself in that role?

I’m not sure except for the people who came beside me and affirmed a call to preach and pastor in me on my journey of hurt and re-identification, but I know every day that what I do as a pastor and preacher every week is what I was created to do.

There is a temptation every time I step into the pulpit to let the voices that have called me “rebellious,” “ambitious,” “deceitful,” or “a trouble maker” name me. I am certain that these voices and the churches and congregation who gather on Sundays and hear whether directly or indirectly that women can’t be preachers will always leave me with a sense of nervousness as I enter the holy desk, and I’m glad of that. I am glad that I don’t take lightly stepping into the pulpit every Sunday. I am glad that the voices of the teenagers and young adult women who are to the ministry in these congregation still keep me up at night because they were me, and a part of me will always be them. This part will drive me to keep telling my story, keep answering the question, “What are you doing now?” with a deep breath and my role as pastor, so that some day there won’t be women or girls who don’t know or haven’t seen a baptist woman preacher.

On Being Ordained 1 Year

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A year ago today, Emmanuel Baptist Fellowship was celebrating its 10 year anniversary and as we gathered around lots of good food, we also celebrated my ordination. For my ordination to be a part of Advent will always be special because I spent a lot of time waiting and wondering, hoping there would be a congregation who would affirm my calling to preach and serve as pastor of a church. That longing to be able to step fully into what God was calling me to do was something I didn’t always believe was a possibility.

Today as a congregation, we will celebrate the second Sunday of Advent. I will robe up as their pastor to prepare for our worship service to celebrate this high holy season. As I walk towards the sanctuary, I will see two coat racks collecting coats for the families at Victorian Lakes Mobile Home Community and the The Cooperative Ministry (who we just found out has no coats to hand out.) I’ll see a little tree with ornaments on it with numbers of residents at the Leaphart Place, an apartment complex for adults with special needs, so that we can throw them a Christmas party in two weeks. I’ll also see a red bin collecting household goods for the Agape Senior Center’s new Alzheimer Unit, which one of our friends from Leaphart Place told us about.

I’ll see the Luke passage we are studying this morning coming alive:

50 His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.

And I’ll sing with Mary because I have been able to answer the call of God:

‘My soul magnifies the Lord,
47   and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,                                                                                                                                   49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.

If you are in the Lexington/Columbia area and you are looking for a place who welcomes and affirms all people, come join us as we work together waiting for the miracle of the Christ Child’s birth.