Not a Lone Ranger

Post Author: Brenda Lovick

I recall the first time I heard of the place that has become my call.  The phone rang while I was at a family picnic.  When the representative from the synod office told me that he had a place in mind for me, I was elated.  Finally, I thought, I would do what I believed God called me to do.

I remember the conversation well.  I began asking questions of the synod representative.  He filled me in with details without telling me the location.  It was a solo pastor position.  I told him that this was great news. I also said that in order for it to be a successful pastor/parish match, I needed to have a positive support network of colleagues.  He said, “Well, in this place you’re going to have to work on that.”

My heart leaped into my throat.

My panic was fed by the security I had.  I was blessed with incredible support throughout my life from churches and people around me.  I was baptized in the Moravian Church and started Sunday school there.  Around early elementary school, my family started going to the Lutheran church.  I always had one foot in Moravian Church and the other foot in the Lutheran Church.

As a Lutheran, I attended a Presbyterian seminary that had many different denominations represented on staff and in the student body.  I experienced incredible supervisory support from colleagues and professors. Then I had worked as a counselor in a wonderful team setting where we were always able to bounce ideas off of each other.  I had a parish internship where my supervisor and internship committee were very good at helping me grow to see my strengths and imperfections.

My biggest fear in my new, first call was that I would become a lone ranger. I didn’t know how to function without colleagues around me.

As I settled into my new community at my first call, I had only a few Lutheran pastors around me.  I had even fewer young clergy women around me.  So, I started going to meetings. I met people of all ages, genders, races, denominations, marital statuses, etc.  Many of the people I met were uncertain about working with a female pastor.  Some male clergy said they didn’t agree with women in the pulpit.  Some men were extremely supportive.  Some female clergy had given up on any clergy working together, and others were enthusiastic about finding a friend to support and confide in.

I knew I needed a support network, but I didn’t realize how long it would take. I learned that I needed patience.  I had some patience, and at times I struggled finding patience.  The longer I’m here, the more I work with pastors who are from all different kinds of denominations with many different backgrounds.  Sometimes I have to travel forty or more miles to get to these pastors, but I find that meeting with pastors is life-giving and ministry-enriching. It’s a joy to engage in conversation about why we think what we think and how we can further God’s kingdom in this place. Sometimes we get into some interesting and cordial debates. I learn from others’ successes and mistakes, and I hope they learn from mine too.  My faith grows as I talk about theology with Lutherans and non-Lutherans.  I learn all over again that I am indeed Lutheran.  These clergy and I even work together on projects to build bridges between our congregations.  The best part of this experience is that I have made life-long friends of all ages, denominations, genders, and belief systems.

Every once and a while, I’ll meet a lone ranger.  I wonder to myself, “How do you do it?” And I do the best I can to offer my collegial support to him or her.

None of us is alone in ministry because of the saints God places around us.  If anyone is alone, I’m convicted that it’s his or her own fault.

As I look over the first five years of my ministry, and even further over the first thirty-six years of my life, I see how God has used my experiences in childhood and young adulthood to equip my call to ministry in rural Illinois.  I am grateful for the challenges and nudges God has given me to reach out to people in my community for ministry support and to support another minister.

I know especially that God works in and through those heart-in-throat moments to reveal God’s faithfulness.  I am not a lone ranger.

Rev. Brenda Lovick is the solo pastor of Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, in Manlius, IL, a town of 350 people and surrounded by rolling fields of corn and soybeans. She encourages anyone in ministry to go out and find a friend. Especially a friend who doesn’t think like you but loves you just the same.

Image by: James Ogley
Used with permission
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