A Ministry of Ending

Would we close? Or could we keep going? 

It was the question that occupied my mind as I drove to meet with a denominational leader about my congregation. And it was the question that came at me from every side as I began my ministry as a solo pastor of an urban congregation in St. Louis, Missouri, just a month after my graduation from seminary. Though I had led a congregation to a merger as a student pastor, I still wasn’t equipped to answer this question. Nobody had mentioned the financial strain, the community members’ fatigue, and the denominational push-pull the congregation had been through for the years preceding my arrival. 

It had taken months for me to land this face-to-face meeting with the one person in my denominational structure with the authority to decide my congregation’s fate. 

Would we close? Or could we keep going? Read more

The Heroine’s Journey, Part 3- Road of Trials: Meeting Ogres and Dragons

This post is the third in what will be a series of ten exploring the kinship between the Heroine’s Journey as established by Maureen Murdock, my lived experience of ministry as a female clergy person, and a few familiar fictional characters. Each devotional will end with a blessing for the Heroine at each stage of the journey. In the previous post, we examined the second part of the journey where the Heroine enters into a process of formation as determined by the external “other” that the Heroine hopes will overwhelm their pesky femininity.

 

The Heroine’s Journey;

Part Three – Road of Trials: Meeting Ogres and Dragons

Now the Heroine must prove their skills, knowledge, and relationships against the hardships of the world–necessary work in order to develop ego and character. Challengers draw near to keep them from their chosen path. When the Heroine has triumphed over their trials and adversaries, they gain reputation, status, empowerment, and confidence. Alongside their external success, the Heroine believes that they have secured the other to their identity and no longer have to fear being deficient or inferior.

 

Personal Story

There is one photo of me that best encapsulates this phase of my life, when I was both establishing my family and endeavoring to establish my career. It was taken at a synodical continuing education event that I was attending in order to network, to keep my face out there, and make sure that I wasn’t forgotten or discarded. I was two years into a search for my first call and the ordination that would go with it. Though it is not visible in the photo, I was pregnant with my second child, which meant that I felt gross in my own skin and my back ached. 

I knew I was being photographed that day. I remember being annoyed about it even as it was happening, because I recognized what was unfolding. I recognized it because a classmate from seminary, a person of color, had shared with me when this had happened to him. They were taking photos of me because I was young and female, and they needed more diversity for their website. I was being gobbled up by the insatiable content monster that lurks in so many aspects of modern life. Yet I understood that the photographer had no way to know I was not ensconced in a congregation or some other ministry setting. He was doing his job just as I was doing what needed to be done.  Read more

Separation of church and state fails to protect female clergy

The founding fathers meant for religious freedom to stand as a fundamental principle of evolved civic life.  But in reality, church-state separation has had the unintended effect of protecting and enabling pedophilic male priests and endangering female clergy at the hands of abusive parishioners.  This two-sided coin of silencing abuse within church culture reveals a deeply patriarchal current that runs through not only conservative Catholic parishes but also highly progressive Protestant denominations.

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Young woman studying, thinking, “What will this cost me?” The background is purple and the color scheme is various shades of purple and peach/pink. The girl is wearing headphones and sitting at a desk with a book open.n

Jubilee, Student Loans, and the Nature of Forgiveness

On August 24, 2022, President Joe Biden announced his long awaited plan to forgive some student loan debt. It was a promise he made to would-be voters almost three years ago during his campaign. Throughout his presidency, various talking heads and Twitter hot-takers have wondered when he would finally do it. 

Well, he did it, and the reaction was just as predictable as his presidency.  Read more

A Back-to-School Blessing

A top-view photograph of brightly colored school supplies (colored pencils, tempera paints, tape, protractor and compass, paper clips, calculator, eraser, pencil sharpener) arranged in a loose circle atop gray hardwood floor.

God of all that learns and grows,

Bless our students, and guide them that their minds may grow in wisdom and their hearts may grow in compassion. Help us to nurture their questions and encourage their curiosity that they may learn more about the world You created and the people around it.  Read more

The Heroine’s Journey, Part Two: Identification with the Masculine and Gathering of Allies

This post is the second in what will be a series of ten exploring the kinship between the Heroine’s Journey as established by Maureen Murdock, my lived experience of ministry as a female clergy person, and a few familiar fictional characters. Each devotional will end with a blessing for the Heroine at each stage of the journey. In the  previous post, we examined the first part of the journey where the Heroine learns to distrust or belittle her own femininity because she fears it means she is weak or bad.

The Heroine’s Journey

Part Two – Identification with the Masculine and Gathering of Allies

The Heroine has shifted away from their feminine self and is now intent on constructing an identity informed by the external “other.” This is most often accomplished by aligning themselves with a father figure and/or by stepping into a traditionally masculine role.  Once the Heroine has been established with the mentor or is in the place that will cultivate them, they either gear “up to ‘fight’ an organization/role/group that is limiting [their] life options, or [enter] some masculine/dominant-identity defined sphere” through study, training, making friends, and building alliances.

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The Loneliness Epidemic

35 year-old full-time working mom with young children seeks other working moms to form tight-knit friendship group. Loves travel, good food, reading books, going to the movies/theater productions, and being outdoors—especially near water. Must enjoy iced coffee, Rosé, and have a slightly irreverent sense of humor. Must send silly texts, make time for lunches, errands, or nights out, and check-in about the ups and downs of life. Will do the same. Email if you think we could be besties!

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Women’s Wisdom

Since the leaking of Justice Alito’s draft opinion, I have been utterly worn down. Yes, there is that old ache of dread in my bones that wonders what will become of our world – one that has been nearly non-stop since March 2020. Much of it has also been from watching people spar in pro-life versus pro-choice debates – as if abortion rights were a spectator sport. But abortion is no sport, spectator or otherwise. It is medical care.

 

Like any medical care, people choose to pursue abortion for varied, complex reasons – so much so that any legislation limiting abortion access fails to account for the nuance of a decision to abort. The decision whether to terminate a pregnancy requires wisdom. And though not all those seeking abortions identify as women, I want to center women in my writing here.

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Learning from Tabitha

What do we do when our bodily autonomy is violated and the Supreme Court takes away our rights?  I read and re-read the stories of those people of faith who came before to better understand what might be required of me, and of the Church, in the months and years to come. I remembered the story of Tabitha, or Dorcas, the only woman who is directly named as a disciple in the New Testament (Acts 9:26 with the feminine mathētria). Abortion is not mentioned in Tabitha’s story, but it is a story that can direct us as we try to figure out what to do in this new reality.

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On Leaving a Call

My final Sunday at that church came as every other Sunday in my career has come: with a little anxiety and a rush of responsibilities. But this time, it felt as though more was at stake. I was leaving. Every Sunday, I wake up at 5:00 a.m. First feed the dog, make coffee, sip my coffee. For those few moments, everything is peaceful.

 

I give myself until 5:30 every Sunday. Or rather, gave. At 5:30 sharp, I’d stop mindlessly scrolling or pause my Wordle fixation for the day and get to work.

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