I was blessed in many ways when I came across a wonderful, thought-provoking blogpost the other day. A blogpost so wonderful and thought-provoking that It made me stop and reflect again – in a very different way – on this ordained ministry thing that God has called me to. As my vocational calling and my salaried profession, I serve as an ordained clergywoman in the largest mainline denomination church in the Untied States. And, I do this with my life. My whole life is intrinsically interwoven in and with my calling. I don’t do this because I have the the right degree (but it was part of the process), or I’ve networked to the nth degree (but again, definitely part of the job), or because my father did this (OMG no).
So, with a grateful nod to the wonderful, thought-provoking Appalachian Preacher blogpost that led me here … before you now is my very own …
List of Things
that I wish my Partners in Ministry (my congregation) knew about me …
- My Meyers-Briggs personality type is ENFJ. It’s a very typical “type” for us pastor people. In a nutshell, I get energized by being with people; I learn and respond by “intuiting,” or trusting my gut; and I’m super attune to deadlines and rules … except when I’m totally not. On a weekly basis what that looks like is … I’m raring to go on Sunday mornings and on Wednesday nights … sometimes so much that I am spinning with energy despite myself. But expending this kind of energy also means that on Monday and Thursday mornings, I am exhausted and I can’t figure out why. So, I tend to over schedule myself. And, this all also means … that one single, bedside pastoral visit exhausts me beyond measure. I am WIPED after I see you in the hospital, and pray with you. This doesn’t mean that I should not be in these places; I am called to be in ministry with you — in worship, in small groups, leading Everyone’s Inn (mid-week intergenerational gathering) and in the surgery prep room at Long Beach Memorial. It just means that I need to be working constantly at managing my workload and paying attention to my needs to recharge appropriately.
- I’m married to a United Methodist clergyman, and so I’m working even when I’m not working. I am both a pastor and a pastor’s wife. I’m “on” even when I’m home because it’s almost impossible for me to turn off. Partly this is because of my ENFJ-ness (see no. 1 on the list), and partly because my husband and I talk about how God is at work around us and how God is forming disciples in our midst … because we enjoy that. We really, really do. But, it also means that I have to work hard (Very. Very. Hard.) at scheduling downtime even when I’m home so I don’t just naturally get pulled into church, church, church.
- I am not made of teflon, nor am I perfect. Far from it. Words hurt me just like they hurt you. And, sometimes, I am wrong just like you, too. Please come to me and talk to me directly when you have a concern or frustration or question that involves my leadership. There is a lot of backstory, history, learning, and conversations that lead to any decision that I may make or any direction in which I may be leading us. I believe that listening and prayerfully considering, trying to discern the Holy Spirit in our midst is the KEY to our work together. Hearing from you allows us both the opportunity to reflect on how the Holy Spirit has been and is at work in our community and ministries. Conversations allows us to build relationship and serve together … better, more fully, more holistically.
- I am not the institution. The church I serve and how I do it is guided by the institution of which it is a part. But I am not the institution. No one disciple is. And yet, we are all responsible to and for what the institution is today. And we are all responsible for guiding the institution to be more and more responsive to where God would have us be and who God longs for us to be. When the institution is not working — it’s our job together to change it or trash it and start anew — so that whatever comes next supports and resources relevant, impactful “on the ground” ministries.
- God. Family. Church. In that order. I love my husband, my children, my sister, my in-laws and nieces, nephews, cousins, parents. I love the church — I love the people that I serve. But above all, I have a love for God that is boundless and it is out of my love for God that all else burgeons forth. I long to know Jesus more each day, and from this love comes everything else.
- I am an ordained Elder in Full Connection in the California-Pacific conference of the United Methodist Church. I am no one’s Assistant Pastor, and I am not my lead pastor’s wife. When you pat me on the head, tell me to smile and that I should wear my hair back more often, it sends me back to the pervasive societal challenge and personal self-doubt that pesters me continuously. Most churches in the world do not recognize women in church leadership, let alone ordain women. But, you do. And so, I need you, the church to understand that while of course my gift and graces will differ from my male clergy colleagues, my gender contributes to my gifts and graces in pastoral leadership. I need the church that I serve to hold me up and believe in me as a clergywoman, an ordained elder in full connection.
- I had a previous call to ministry … in the performing arts. From Broadway to tiny black box theaters to giant opera houses, I have travelled the United States and the world, producing Shakespeare, Greek theatre and opera. I loved my work, and I understood it also as vocational call. I knew from age 6 that I was going to be a theatre rat. And, I was. Each show I did was a labor of love from beginning to end. But, God continued to be at work in me and through me. My time in the theatre world brought me to my time in the institutional church. My love for worship is intrinsically and dynamically connected to my love for theatre that has the potential to gather the beloved community together … in deeply holy, even mystical ways that defy expectations and words.
- I love Jesus. I am a disciple of Jesus Christ. I understand my role as leading others to follow Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, God with us. I do not see my role as a primarily civic function. I do not see worship as a business meeting or the printed paper thing we use as a bulletin or agenda. I see “church” as the gathering of the people of God that are trying together to live after the way of Jesus. We don’t have all the answers. We are messy, broken, smelly, and mean sometimes. But our work together is to follow the ways of Jesus, to be the beloved community and to help others share the pervasive, inescapable love of God. Sometimes, I feel very lonely as someone who loves Jesus “in” the church.
- I am and I will always be the child of an addiction-riddled home. From those formative years, I learned some deeply dysfunctional ways to do life, and I learned how broken we are … no matter our age or life stage. But, I also learned how to find and build family in different ways and places. I learned that I could call my pastor when things got rough, or bike to a neighbor’s house for protection. I learned that relationships in the home impact our entire lives, communities and our very future together. How we support the home when we are the church … is ministry. How we teach parents, grandparents and children to be family, to share a loving faith, to walk in the ways of Jesus all week long is some of the most important work we have before us.
- Some days in ministry are better than others, but everyday I am doing what I know in my heart of hearts that God has called me to do. I have the honor, privilege, and responsibility of leading the church of God to know Jesus more closely and to be the agents of God’s love and transformative change in the world. I love what I do. I love you, the church. I shed tears for you. I pray for you. I worry about you. I care about you — very deeply.
- And … together we are part of a special dance called church. In this dance, I serve you under the Bishop’s appointment and you care for me from year to year. You and I covenant together to take care of one another and to do God’s work together. As I lead our ministries and equip the church to be the church, you make sure that I am housed, my insurance is paid, and that my utilities are covered. You hold me accountable for taking vacation and tending to my healthy and well-being. You welcome me to the church, care for me while I am here and you send me off when it’s time to go. It’s a special, symbiotic dance this thing called church.
that’s enough to know, don’t you think? i am thankful for the space to share it and to anyone who read this far. for now, peace to you and i’m out.