Recently I was writing an application and was asked to access my ministry to date. I wrote about the 8 1/2 years since ordination as they wanted me to, but here’s where I really wanted to start because my journey in ministry did not start in Ordination.
My church upbringing was mixed at best. My parents divorced when I was a small child and I spend my weekends split between them- one weekend at the Presbyterian Church, one weekend at the Roman Catholic Church. Once my mother remarried our family attended a United Methodist church near our home. After a schism in that congregation my step-father wanted to go back to his roots and we attended a local southern Baptist congregation.
By the time we were rooted into the culture of the Baptist church I was around 9 years old. However, I remember having my first theological thought at the Methodist Church as I starred at the stained glass window of Jesus, listened to prayers directed toward Jesus, and the scriptures focused on Jesus. I wondered where God was in all this (little did I understand).
The southern Baptist was a turn off from the beginning for me, in all honesty. I remember a Sunday School lesson in Jr. High about becoming a “born-again virgin”, I found this topic not only impossible but also age inappropriate (these days sex in middle school would not be inappropriate, but that was a while ago). Every week I watched altar calls that either ended because parents forced their children to go forward, or people wanted service to end.
Besides their views on women, their view of God, and the fact that we all left church in a bad mood I went each week to church with my parents, until they decided to join. My step-father had been raised in the Baptist tradition and had a “believers baptism” my mother, however, was raised Presbyterian and had an infant baptism, meaning she would have to be re-baptized.
I watched one Sunday evening my mother, dressed in a white robe, be lowered into a pool in the front of the sanctuary and dunked three times. It should have been a beautiful moment, not that I was expecting the heavens to open, but I remembered thinking that something should have happened, we should have felt something. At that moment I knew that the promise of baptism had already been given to my mother and this was simply a step she was taking to join the church. I was done with the church.
I stopped all attendance to church except Christmas and Easter, refused to go to Youth Group, and began pretending there was no God. I say pretending because years later I was once asked when I was “saved” or “found God”. I explained that I could tell them stories of acceptance or moments where I felt God’s presence, but there was no moment I found God, God found me, before my birth. God has always been there for me, even in the worst of times, full of self-hatred, starving for love, wandering lonely in the world- God was always there. I was 18 years old and had been attending The Presbyterian Church of Bowling Green, KY for less than 2 years.
When I was 16 years old my best friend asked if I would join her church choir. The choir had 4 “section leaders” in the choir from the University and the tenor and soprano had just split up and the soprano had quit, they needed a fill-in and fast. I agreed and attended 2 worship services every Sunday and a Wednesday Night choir rehearsal. I had to do something between services so I started attending Sunday School, then they got me on a ski trip, then Youth Group. It was in that place, with those youth leaders I experienced love for the first time, I experienced grace for the first time.
It was there that I learned to witness that the greatest gift I could ever give God was to be who God created me to be. That I am worthy of love and forgiveness, that I must love myself in return.
One night, after graduating high school, I sat on a street in the middle of the night in Montreat, NC with a group of my peers and talked about what it meant to be a child of God. They asked me questions and I told stories and quoted scripture and felt a sense of peace like never before. I was called, I was to devote my life to God and the church, and my ministry was born.
I studied music in college and immediately entered Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. I loved seminary, it was a community of nurturing, caring, and encouraging people. We shared joys and frustrations; we fought over women’s rights, racial issues, and theology. We witnessed to each other the best and worst of humanity, the love and forgiveness of God.
My first internship was where the rubber hit the road. I was nervous, not having been “raised” in the church I felt like there was a set of rules everyone knew and followed except for me. However, they didn’t care (well, most of them). Since taking my first step in the pulpit my ministry has been confirmed every step of the way.
There were rules, and I naturally broke them by being myself. I didn’t always have three points in a sermon and I hardly ever used a poem. The word “refreshing” is used a lot when people encounter me in ministry settings. My ministry began at the moment of my birth, my very existence, with each breath, a witness to our living creator.