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Welcoming New TYCWP Board Members

Each summer, TYCWP welcomes a new class of fabulous women to join in the leadership of the project as Board Members. Board Members generally come in to serve a three-year term, and some women stay for a second, three-year term after their initial service. We are so thankful for the women who have served TYCWP faithfully and will roll off the board this year: Diana Hodges-Batzka, Kelsey Grissom, and Brenda Lovick. Their gifts and skills have been a blessing to each one of us in this project.

We are also thankful for each member of the board who will be returning this year: Kelly Boubel Shriver (Co-Chair), Molly James (Co-Chair), Caroline Berardi (Vice Chair), Sarah Hooker (Treasurer), Emily Brown and Austin Shelley (Co-Managing Editors of Fidelia’s Sisters), Diana Carroll, Erin Klassen, Jamie Haskins, Julie Hoplamazian, Meg Jenista, Julie Jensen, Amy Loving Austin, Sarah Moore, Lesley Ratcliff, Sarah Ross, Erica Schemper, and Phyl Stuzman.

You can find out more about all of our off-going and current board members on our website. Read more


Dear Celebrity

writing-1209121_640Dear Celebrity,

The first time I met you was a very memorable occasion. I’d met celebrities of your stature before, but they’d all been a meet-and-greet sort of thing or strictly business—the kind of official interactions where it didn’t matter at all who I was. Honestly, I haven’t liked many of them. So when I saw you, at the end of a long day that had started twelve hours before, I wasn’t exactly giddy. You were there, at church, with your kids, having just moved into the neighborhood a few months before. You were looking for an Episcopal church with kids’ programs, because apparently not everyone in Hollywood is either atheist or crazy, right-wing, born-again Christian. I found that hopeful. You were also there on the most somber of holy days: Ash Wednesday, that day when we smear ashes on our foreheads with the reminder that we are dust, and to dust we shall return. I thought, “Good Lord, what an introduction. Welcome to our church. Remember, you’re all going to die.”

I talked to your kids about Sunday School, about how long the class is and what they’d learn. I couldn’t believe I was having this conversation, that you had entered my world. I’ve entered into your world—worlds you’ve created—many times. I’ve loved everything I’ve seen you in. You’re really one of my favorites. And there I was, talking to you in real life, like you’re regular folk. I mean, of course you are a person like anyone else, but let’s be honest, in many ways you’re not. You and I live in the same neighborhood but not in the same world. Yet there you were, in this church, on my turf, interested in things that are my responsibility. All I could think was, “I really hope I don’t make an idiot of myself.” I’m pretty sure I did, even though I was trying very hard to act normally and not geek out. Most importantly, I was trying to make it about the kids, because that’s why you were there. You were not there as a famous actress. You were there as a mom, and I wanted so much to make sure that’s how I treated you. I’m sorry I let it slip that I was a huge fan of your hit show while your son was talking about being friends with your co-star. It was a natural segue, but I hope it wasn’t unprofessional.

None of that is why your first visit was memorable, though. Read more

Susan Beaumont

Leading with Presence: TYCWP’s 2016 Conference

Susan BeaumontMy first few months as a solo rector were a strange combination of familiar ministry that I was confident I could do well and bewildering new challenges. Design curriculum for adult education? I’d done that a number of times as a first-call associate. Visit members in hospitals and nursing homes? Clinical Pastoral Education taught me lots about pastoral care. But hiring and supervising staff? How in the world was I supposed to do that? My seminary had not offered a course in parish administration during my time there, and I hadn’t learned much about staff management as an associate. I was eager for these challenges––I’d moved into a solo rectorship because I was ready to take them on––but my experience hadn’t prepared me for them.

Thank God for Susan Beaumont. Her book, When Moses Meets Aaron: Staffing and Supervision in Large Congregations, co-written with Gil Rendle, saved my bacon as I was learning the human resources aspects of my new job. Read more

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A GIF From God

little boy runningI pushed back from the table, breathless at what I had just seen. It was July 2011, and I was sitting in a room at Duke University with dozens of other female ministers. We were gathered for the last morning of The Young Clergy Women Project conference, and keynoter Winnie Varghese had invited us all to close our eyes and picture our lives in five years.

This kind of personal visioning was a luxury I hadn’t afforded myself in some time. After all, I’m married to a United Methodist pastor. For the eight years before that moment, I had struggled with the reality that itineracy dictated not just where we lived and Matt served, but also what opportunities were available to me. When someone asked me where I wanted to be in five, ten, or twenty years, I usually gave a partly true, partly cop-out answer: “Oh, that’s for the Holy Spirit to decide.”

Winnie’s invitation, however, shook something loose. I had closed my eyes for the exercise, because I’m a rule-follower, an obedient eldest child. But it wasn’t long before I saw an image like an animated GIF projected on the inside of my eyelids. I was holding a toddler, who was struggling to be put down so that he could wobble excitedly over to Matt. The detail was striking: the blooms on the trees, the look of adoration on the boy’s face as he looked at the man who was obviously his father. What made my breath catch in my throat, though, was the convergence of my deep ambivalence toward becoming a parent up to that point with my advancing age and my sudden certainty about wanting to be a mom. Read more

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Support TYCWP With A Year-End Gift

The Young Clergy Women Project LogoIf you are anything like me, you receive a lot of requests for donations this time of year. You’ve probably been hearing from a multitude of non-profit organizations throughout the fall, and now every single one of them is reminding you (via email, snail mail, and a phone call) that this is your last chance to contribute in 2015.

Due to my tendency toward procrastination, it has become something of a New Year’s Eve tradition for my wife and I to sit down together wherever we might be on December 31 and make the donations we have been intending to make all along. We’ve even been known to pack the stack of request letters and take them with us as we visit family, because we haven’t managed to get it done before Christmas.

One of the few exceptions to this pattern is The Young Clergy Women Project. Last year, when TYCWP made its first annual fundraising appeal, we set up a monthly recurring donation, so that we will never have to try to remember whether or not we have given. Supporting TYCWP is one of our top priorities, right beside giving to our churches, because of what this community means to us. You can join us by making a donation at youngclergywomen.org/donate.

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Thank God for TYCWP

“I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because you hold me in your heart, for all of you share in God’s grace with me, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.” (Philippians 1:3-7)

HolyGhostOctoberI’m not in prison, but all the rest of it is true. When I think of The Young Clergy Women Project, I thank my God every time. What a gift it is to be part of a diverse community of women who share in God’s grace with me. We come from different backgrounds, denominations, and traditions, which gives us an incredible wealth of experience and wisdom to draw from and share with one another. I am a better pastor and leader because of the wisdom the group has shared. From brainstorming solutions for sticky personnel issues to encouraging one another in new projects or transitions from one call to another, the group helps me to see possibilities where I thought there were none and life where it seems there could only be death.

I have been challenged, affirmed, and held accountable by my sisters in ministry through the conversations we share. I have made new friends during regional meet-ups and at the annual conference. I have shared in laughter, tears, frustration, and joy. I have been reminded that I am not alone, and I have had the opportunity to remind others they are not alone. I have found a place where I could be myself, all parts of me: the pastor, the wife, the mother, and the person God created me to be.
For all of these reasons and so many more, it was easy to say “yes” when I saw a request for donations last year. It was a simple request: Read more

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We Have your Advent Planned: TYCWP’s Partners in Prayer Advent Devotional from Chalice Press

advent coverBehold, Fidelia’s readers! The dark nights of Advent are always a bit brighter with Chalice Press’ annual Advent devotional, Partners in Prayer. But this time Partners in Prayer is even better: it’s written and edited by yours truly, The Young Clergy Women Project.

This year’s devotional guide invites readers to “Sing a New Song” (Psalm 98) and greet the Christ child as the whole earth sings God’s praise. Each daily devotion is brief: a short Bible passage, devotional paragraph, and prayer. In addition, there is a litany to use for lighting an Advent wreath for each Sunday of Advent and Christmas Eve/Day. This guide is written for people of all ages, demographics, and denominations, and you will recognize authors’ names from past Fidelia’s and Chalice publications.

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My Last Conference


Is it possible to have too much swag?  More than half of my travel coffee mugs (and two out of my three plastic tumblers) have The Young Clergy Women Project logo on them.  I have a little stash of boutique lip balms from Nashville, Minnesota, and Austin, all patiently waiting for me to finish using up my Chapstick (once watermelon-flavored) labeled “Sabbath in the City: Chicago 2012, The Young Clergy Women Project.”  Just today I tossed a change of clothes and my funeral shoes into a large canvas tote bag with “The Young Clergy Women Project, funded by the Louisville Institute & powered by faith, verve, chocolate, and really great shoes” superimposed over a spiral on the front.

Is it possible to have been to too many TYCWP conferences?  When I think back on the conferences and board meetings I have attended, I realize I’ve probably visited more seminaries, theology schools, and divinity schools in more states than the vast majority of my other local colleagues.  And very few of those colleagues can claim to be part of an intentional community that stretches around the world and across denominations.

Normally I would say: “It’s impossible to have too much swag, and impossible to have attended too many conferences.”  I rely on both the swag and the community to help me get things done in ministry with the least amount of damage to myself.  But perhaps it is possible to have too much, because each year’s worth of swag and each year’s conference reminds me I am one year closer to aging out of the project next spring.

Just as the community of TYCWP helped me figure out what it meant to be a young clergy woman, it is now helping me make sense of what it means to be a slightly older clergy woman.  My days of being carded at the liquor store are over.  My bodily aches and pains are increasing.  I still get inappropriate comments—but people have finally stopped calling me “kiddo.”

And yet I am so, so far from having everything figured out.  My authority, my identity, and my self-awareness are still developing.  I still routinely lean on the project to remind myself that I’m not the only one.  And seeing in person, at the conferences, what the project has become in the last eight years is truly a miraculous thing; I am moved to tears seeing the support and the community that we dreamed about so long ago come into being.

I’ve attended every TYCWP conference since 2010 after missing the first two conferences in 2007 and 2008 (but attending the board meetings in 2008 and 2009).  And every year I go into it putting pressure on myself, thinking “This is such a rare opportunity to see all of these YCWs in person, so I need to make the most of it.”  And I come out realizing how foolish it was to try and force this to be a mountaintop experience.  It’s going to be one, no matter what I do.

This year was no different.  I went into the conference thinking, “This my last chance to make these connections in person…I need to go all out, I need to be more outgoing, I need to meet and talk with as many people there as possible.”  Have my years in the project taught me nothing?  Have I not learned to respect my own body’s needs and my own emotional needs as an introvert?  Apparently not.

But you all reminded me that the best encounters of the conference are the ones you didn’t plan for, the ones you don’t engineer.  Sure, I haven’t taken a dance class in twenty years, but I’ll go to a Ballet Austin drop-in class with you and risk total humiliation just so I can remember the days when my body actually obeyed my mind’s direction.  Sure, the movie is sold out, so let’s find the best Tex-Mex around and perhaps enjoy a margarita instead. Conferences are places where you can be spontaneous and impulsive without worrying about what the church matriarch is going to think–or worse, say to others down the grapevine.  They are also places where nobody will ridicule you for choosing to spend a quiet night at the hotel and going to bed at a reasonable hour.

Conferences of TYCWP are places where I can be most authentically myself.  This happens only very rarely in other parts of my life.  If I feel like a party girl, I can be one for one night.  If I feel like giving my body the gift of sleep, I can do that too.  I can remember what it was like to make choices just for me, without thinking about a thousand other people and a thousand consequences.

Maybe that’s why no matter who I meet or who I connect with at a conference, I find myself in a different space when I return.  Because I’ve remembered who I am.  And I’ve shared in a community that embraces me as I am, without a thick layer of expectations.

Thank you, each and every member of the project I’ve met in person over the years.  You have been salt and light to me, and I treasure each one of you for helping me taste life again, and see myself more clearly.


Holy Ghost Grab Bag: Year-End Review

Catching up on Fidelia’s during your summer downtime? The Fidelia’s editors have compiled a list of their favorite articles from this past year of publishing. Each editor shares what pieces published in her column that she most enjoyed, and why. If your reading has been sporadic, don’t miss these must-reads!

Kelsey Grissom, editor of Single Rev:
I’ve edited Single Rev for two years now, and As A Mother is probably my all-time favorite piece to publish. Yejide Peters is not a mother, but in the metaphor of motherhood she helped me to understand my role as a pastor in a way that still sustains me.

Another piece I love is The Liturgy of the Mandarin Orange, which is a divorce ceremony by Kyndall Rae Rothaus. I love this piece because it offers liturgy that compassionately tends to the profound pain present in the loss of a marriage, while at the same time demonstrating how to seek out priests (and be priests to ourselves) during times of crisis and transformation.


Diana Carrol‪l, editor of Our Cloud of Witnesses:
My favorite article was the Interview with our Founder, Susan Olson. It was fascinating for me to find out more about how The Young Clergy Women Project began. Every member (and supporter) of TYCWP should read this to understand our history.


Amy Loving, editor of Holy Ghost Grab Bag:
I liked Bread by Kelly Boubel Shriver and A Companion for the Journey by Kelsey Grissom. The testimonies that were shared were simple and beautiful, making me think about sometimes overlooked things in a different way.


Emily Brown, editor of Ask a YCW:
“Ask a Young Clergy Woman: Holiday Drama Edition” was a favorite this year. It addressed the reality that most clergy are not able to spend Christmas with their families, and offered some suggestions of how families might readjust their traditions.

“Ask a Young Clergy Woman: Cosmetic Quandary Edition” was another favorite, generating righteous outrage from YCWs and non-YCWs alike, as Askie addressed a male pastor seeking guidance on how to handle the Ladies’ Fellowship’s demand that the church’s secretary wear makeup.


Erica Schemper, editor of The Jesus Review:
I loved What’s in Your Earbuds? Pastors were such a fascinating group to ask about podcasts (beyond the theologically/preaching oriented obvious ones) because we are professionals who are into the spoken word and people’s everyday lives. It gave me a new appreciation for how younger clergy are connecting to some of the new (-ish) media in the world.

And Tired Shoulders by Amy Wiegert. Such a beautiful example of an everyday moment inspiring theological reflection on current events. And I am so grateful to the author for letting us into that intimate moment with her daughter and giving us her perspective as a lens for looking at race relations in America.


Brenda Lovick, editor of Here I Stand:
One of my favorites was Holy Sexuality. The author really pushes the church—including her bishop—to consider a new paradigm for understanding sexuality and sexual activity in the church.

Another favorite was Eviction Monologues by Sarah Gladstone. This is no easy business: a pastor holds a family in reverence even though they did not obey the congregation’s wishes to leave the parsonage.


Kelly Shriver, general editor:
I loved Meg Jenista’s take on grace in her article “The Break-Up Flowers.” I think we’re so used to giving all of ourselves as pastors we need the reminder that it’s ok to take time, space, and matter (in this case, flowers) for ourselves. That’s holy work in its own way.

A few weeks ago my third son was born and went to the NICU with jaundice and a few related complications. Thankfully his story wasn’t nearly as complicated or severe as the tale shared by Kristen Corr Rod in “Gratitude for a Life Saved.” However, rereading her story felt so familiar to my last few weeks; it was a tender reminder that I am not alone…not just professionally, but in the life my family is living, as well.


April Berends, editor of Moms in Ministry:
One of my favorite articles was Unwrapping Grace. This piece describes an adopted daughter’s first Christmas with her new mom and extended family. I love how it juxtaposes the abundance of gifts with the experience of a young girl who is trying to put the pieces of her new life together. The story ends with the deeply incarnational image of a mother and daughter, lying beside one another at the end of Christmas day, pondering the richness and the vastness of the love that has been shown them.

I also liked Generation to Generation. Grace Pritchard Burson, an Episcopal priest describes her new vocation as a doula. She compares her doula work to that of being a priest and pastor, and eloquently describes the holy gift of being being present both at birth and at death.


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Meet the New TYCWP Board Members

Each year TYCWP welcomes a new class of fabulous, classy, wonderful women to join in the leadership of the project as Board Members. Board Members generally come in to serve a three-year term, and some women stay for a second, three-year term after their initial tour of duty. Starting this summer, TYCWP will look a bit different. Rather than dividing into two boards (Editorial and Community), we will instead be serving as one, cohesive board. We are looking forward to the ways our new organizational structure will help us grow as a project.

We are so thankful for the class of women who have served TYCWP faithfully and will roll off the board this year: April Berends, Christine Davies, Jessica Harren, and Mihee Kim-Kort. Their gifts and skills have been a blessing to each one of us in this project.

We are also thankful for each member of the board who will be returning for another year of service: Amy Loving, Brenda Lovick, Caroline Berardi, Diana Carroll, Diana Hodges-Batzka, Emily Brown, Erica Schemper, Jamie Haskins, Julie Jensen, Kelly Boubel Shriver, Kelsey Grissom, Lesley Ratcliff, Meg Jenista, Molly James, Phyl Stuzman, and Sarah Moore.

You can find out more about all of our off-going and current board members on our website.


And without further ado, please meet our newest board members! Welcome!

AustinS Austin Shelley: A native of South Carolina and a graduate of Columbia College, Austin Shelley received her Master of Divinity and Master of Theology degrees from Princeton Theological Seminary. She was ordained in the Presbyterian Church (USA) in October 2012. Before attending seminary, Austin taught art, Spanish, and Latin and was the director of the Academically Gifted Program at Chapin Middle School in South Carolina. She then served as Director of Youth Ministries at Lake Murray Presbyterian Church. While in seminary, she completed her field education at Trinity Episcopal Church where she fell in love with high church liturgy. She now serves as the Associate Minister for Christian Education at The Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill in Philadelphia. Austin is married to Mark who teaches European history and makes the perfect sweet tea. Together they parent three mostly wonderful children and eat Fruit Loops for dessert after the kids are in bed.

Erin KErin Klassen: Erin has been ordained in the United Church of Canada for 9 years and has served in team ministry in both rural and urban contexts. She received her M.Div. from what was then known as Queens Theological College (now Queens School of Religion). She is especially passionate about faith formation. Camping ministry kept her involved in the church and youth ministry leadership is where she first heard her call. Prior to entering the ministry, Erin studied and worked in the environmental sciences field.

Having been born and raised in Saskatchewan, she is a lifelong Roughrider (Canadian Football League) fan. Erin currently lives in Calgary, Alberta with her husband, two young daughters, and dog, MacGyver. They are all Rider fans too. Erin and her family love hiking and biking in the mountains. She is currently trying her hand at herding cats/coaching U4 soccer. Erin is an INFP and an expressive introvert according to Myers-Briggs, and a Four on the Enneagram.

Julie HopJulie Hoplamazian: The Reverend Julie M. Hoplamazian, a Philadelphia native, is the Associate Rector of Grace Church Brooklyn Heights (Episcopal). Julie moved from the cheesesteak to the cheesecake in 2006 and is proud to call both the City of Brotherly Love and the Big Apple “home.” Julie holds a B.S. in Music Education from Gettysburg College and spent several years teaching classroom music, private piano, and voice before attending Princeton Theological Seminary, where she received her M.Div. Before joining the Episcopal Church, Julie served in her church of origin, the Armenian Orthodox Church, as the Coordinator of College Ministry. In her spare time, Julie enjoys keeping up her creative side, practicing her pliés in the ballet studio and her scales at the piano, or trying new recipes in the kitchen with her husband, Jeremy. Julie and Jeremy are animal lovers and enjoy the company of their sidekick Takouhi (“queen” in Armenian), a rescued Australian Shepherd mutt.

KennenKennen Barber Ensz: Kennen Barber-Ensz hails from a small farming community in rural South Dakota. She attended Princeton Theological Seminary and was ordained in the PC(USA) as a teaching elder in 2012. She is currently serving in her first call as co-pastor alongside her husband at First Presbyterian Church of Estherville, IA. In her spare time, Kennen enjoys spending time with her two dogs, Ophelia (a chihuahua/dachshund) and Ruby (a cocker spaniel). She enjoys cycling and running outdoors in the summer, or yoga and Pilates indoors in the winter. She also enjoys reading and long, hot baths (reading and baths together are the best!). Her favorite parts of pastoral ministry include creating unique worship experiences and pastoral care. She is excited at the prospect of “being” the church in new and perhaps unconventional ways. Her greatest challenges of ministry include worrying about what other people think and not having enough time to get everything done.

Sarah HookerSarah Hooker: Sarah is pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Delhi, NY, a cozy farming community in the Catskill Mountains. She earned a BA from Macalester College and a MDiv from Columbia Theological Seminary. Her passions in ministry are pastoral care, mission, and being involved in the greater church. Sarah and her husband Chris keep busy with their ever-inquisitive son, enjoying traveling, hiking, and biking, throwing stones in the many local creeks, and cooking together.