One Beautiful Change


Post Author: Katherine Willis Pershey


Editor’s note: In celebration of our book partnership with Chalice Press, we are giving away a book from one of our YCW authors!  Please consider buying, reading, or even writing a book for TYCWP’s imprint with Chalice Press.

In a Q&A for the Patheos Book Club, I was asked if I wrote Any Day a Beautiful Change with a specific audience in mind. I explained that, while it might be ambitious to claim this, I want to write for anyone and everyone, that there’s something magical about entering the reality of someone wholly unlike you, and that I hope that all sorts of people will find something worthwhile in the book. But I also noted that memoirs always have an obvious first audience: people who share the same demographic as the author.

Which would be you.

There is incredible diversity among us, no doubt. We hail from multiple nations and belong to diverse ethnicities and represent countless denominations. Within the membership of The Young Clergy Women Project there are parish pastors, hospital and college chaplains, and many others who work in creative ministries both within and beyond the walls of the church. There are theological conservatives and liberals; lovers of high church liturgy and closet charismatics. Our family situations are varied as well. There are women who are newly married and women who are newly divorced. There are solo parents, adoptive parents, foster moms, step-mothers of adult children, and women who are happily child-free.

And that’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

Yet we share a trinity of significant identity factors: we are young. We are clergy. And we are women. And by the grace of God – and the vision of our Susan Olson (our founding convener) and the generosity of grant-funding organizations and the hard work of our board members – we have this extraordinary Project that connects us and empowers us to be ever more faithful to our callings.

I’ve written before about how much The Young Clergy Women Project means to me.  But now it means even more. I’m incredibly honored to share a shelf with the other authors who have been and will be published through our imprint. From what I’ve read and heard of these books, I believe that this series will be a gift to the church. They will be read widely and acclaimed greatly. And I hope that for each one, the first and most enthusiastic audience will be the members of The Young Clergy Women Project. In a very real way, these are our books, written by our people: young clergy women.

In the introduction to my book, I wrote, “I didn’t yet know if the story would end happily when I began telling it, but I staked my hopes in a vision borrowed from a favorite song lyric by The Innocence Mission: “At any time I could change, any day, a beautiful change.” Mine is a story of beautiful changes: the birth of a daughter, the healing of a marriage, the closing of one good ministry and the start of another, committed to paper even as they were yet unfolding, between temper tantrums and arguments and committee meetings and lazy Saturday mornings spent at the ocean watching schools of dolphins feeding in the Santa Monica Bay. Any day, a beautiful change.”

To celebrate the book release, I hosted a Blog Carnival called Any *May* a Beautiful Change in which bloggers were invited to share stories of their own beautiful changes. We’re extending the party to the young clergy women – the first audience – and adding a giveaway. Chalice Press will send a free copy of Any Day a Beautiful Change to one randomly-selected winner. To enter, please leave a comment sharing one beautiful change you are celebrating or hoping for.

Thank you for celebrating our books!

Katherine Willis Pershey is the Associate Pastor of the First Congregational Church in Western Springs, Illinois. A graduate of Claremont School of Theology, Katherine previously served as the solo pastor of South Bay Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Redondo Beach, California. She was one of the founding editorial board members of Fidelia’s Sisters, a publication of The Young Clergy Women Project. In addition to writing a personal blog, she is a contributor to the Christian Century. She and her husband, Benjamin, have two daughters.

Photo by the author’s sister, Marie Taylor.


24 replies
  1. Beth B.
    Beth B. says:

    A beautiful change for me has been that from single rev to single rev mom. I welcomed my son to his forever home the day before Thanksgiving, at age 11 1/2. It has not been easy, but it has been good. I expected many of the changes to my life: cooking for 2, less free time to myself, having another person to factor into decisions. I did not expect, however, that my whole world lens would change, that I would in fact view everything differently. It has indeed been a beautiful change.

    Reply
  2. Courtney
    Courtney says:

    I have finally accepted that my marriage is not the avenue of support I had hoped it could be. I look forward to a new beginning and hope for a partner who will support me and cherish (not begrudgingly tolerate) my calling.

    Reply
  3. Stephanie Anthony
    Stephanie Anthony says:

    Well, gee, I put my name in for another random drawing, but the odds are better at this one so far. I promise if I VERY RANDOMLY win at both, I will give one book back to the site with less entrants to re-draw. 🙂

    A beautiful change I’m waiting expectantly for is the revelation of God’s call for my congregation. I feel like I’ve been laying the groundwork for a nice healthy, longer term ministry here for 4 1/2 years, and we’re getting ready to start some exciting transformation work to listen for where we are being called to serve next. The change is coming!

    Reply
  4. Mariclair
    Mariclair says:

    My beautiful change happened almost exactly eight years ago, at about 3AM, as I was sitting in my office at the law firm where I worked, photocopying exhibits for a trial I was dreading. My dog, Dixie, was there, too, since I didn’t like being in the building by myself that late. I loved my job and my coworkers and my work was fulfilling, though I had found in the two years since graduating from law school that I litigating felt like vioence to me. There wasn’t anything in particular about that night that distinguished it, except I realized that whatever I had needed to prove to myself had been proven, and in that instant I stopped being a lawyer in my heart and started being a priest. My bishop agreed, and one month later I packed as much as I could into a UHaul trailer, put Dixie in the backseat, and moved to New York and seminary. I can honestly say I’ve never looked back!

    Reply
  5. Sarah H.
    Sarah H. says:

    A beautiful but challenging and continuing change for me has been my vision of my future, both personally and ministerially. Through much of seminary I dated a seminarian and imagined serving with someone but ended seminary and began my first call without that partner that was so fixed in my vision. It’s been rough adjusting to something completely other than what I had expected, but I find myself more confident, more secure in my calling, more open to what God may call me to. My prayer is that the beautiful change will continue in ways already in progress and in ways I’ve yet to imagine.

    Reply
  6. Emily H.
    Emily H. says:

    One beautiful change I am looking forward to in our family is the birth of our second born–a little girl. It’s been exciting to watch all of the changes happening in our family as we prepare for her to come…but I guess the biggest change I wait for is to see how big our hearts grow in love for our daughter. The love that God gives us the ability to have a human beings and parents is well…simply amazing! God be with you all!

    Reply
    • Alex
      Alex says:

      You are the randomly selected winner! Email me at moms (dot) ycw at gmail (dot) com with you contact information and you will get your free copy of Katherine’s book from Chalice Press!

      Reply
  7. Erin
    Erin says:

    My life is in the midst of a beautiful change at the moment, as I move from my first pastoral charge, which was extremely challenging and yet full of surprising blessings. I will be going to a pastoral charge that appears to be much more supportive of its minister, and aware of the ministry it, as a pastoral charge, does. In this change, I will be moving with a partner, which I have never done before, and I will be changing cultures. I’m looking forward to it, but I’m also nervous. In the end though, I know the change will be beautiful.

    Reply
  8. Chelsey
    Chelsey says:

    My beautiful change occurred in November 2011 when I realized I wasn’t living my dream for life or ministry. Since then, I have been listening the Spirit’s guidance and trying to live into that dream where I am (rather than packing it all in and beginning again). It has been life-giving, gift affirming, and person changing.

    Reply
  9. Susie
    Susie says:

    Over the last year – for no explanation beyond the urging of the Spirit – I’ve become someone who runs. Twice a week. And miss it when I don’t get to run. The ripple effects in the rest of my life – and the (once-again) knowledge that something small can have all those ripples has been a beautiful change in my life.

    Reply
  10. Kim
    Kim says:

    I’ve been delighted with the change over the past year as I’ve begun to shed weight, physically, emotionally, and mentally. The catalyst was a medical diagnosis which although difficult, has made me see the world in a very different way and give me a new perspective. I’m 56 pounds lighter than I was last year and it feels amazing.

    Reply
  11. Ashley
    Ashley says:

    I am changing to be more content. I spent the first 26 years of my life being a student. Well, if you count preschool and daycare 26 years 🙂 If not, 21 years. I was always working to the next grade, next exam, next social event, next award, getting an internship, working on ordination paperwork. I was always working on something. My life has slowed down this past year. I graduated, become the Reverend, and now I am serving a congregation full time. I am learning to be content in just being where God wants me to be. I am in process of changing and loving almost every second of it.

    Reply
  12. Liz GB
    Liz GB says:

    Today we found out that my mom has an invasive form of breast cancer. Luckily, it was caught early and the chances of a full remission are excellent. But this is on top of a year of severe back pain and surgery and strained marriage for her, and of transition (new baby, new town, new call) for me. I am still processing all this, but it seems to be part of a beautiful change happening to me. As the oldest, as a pastor, I am the one who supports others. Through my year of major transitions, I’ve learned to lean on God, to trust God more fully and faithfully (that desperate prayer in the bathroom between confirmation and worship–help me!). Whatever this news means for my family, I have hope that it will mean more beautiful change in my trust of God, and am praying it brings some beautiful changes for my mom.

    Reply
  13. Katrina
    Katrina says:

    I am celebrating a beautiful change right now! My husband and I are expecting our first child, a little girl, due August 20! We are thrilled to meet her, and blessed to be in a church that is extremely supportive of families – in fact, of our staff of 13, 2 of us are pregnant and 1 is going to be a daddy again in the next few months!

    Reply
  14. Caela
    Caela says:

    My beautiful change was the decision to have children. I grew up not knowing if I wanted to be a mother and was married for 7 years before we decided to go for it. Two kids later I’m so glad we made the leap. It has changed me in innumerable ways.

    P.S. If I don’t win the book, what’s the best way to buy it?

    Reply
  15. Amanda
    Amanda says:

    Wow, so many beautiful changes the Lord has brought into my life — but one in particular stands out. In my first year of seminary (at the time, I refused to call it anything but “grad school”), while sitting in a random class, I heard God speak. God said, “you’re going to be a pastor.” I said, “WHAT?!!” Never in my life had I considered such a thing — in fact, I wasn’t even sure I believed it was good for women to become pastors. And that was certainly not what I wanted for my life — too “touchy-feely” for me. So I replied, “If that’s you, God, you’re going to have to make me want it.”

    It took several years, some situations of excruciating emotional pain (which God used to utterly transform and purify me), a God-given church that welcomed me, and thoughts of just plain growing-up… but in my last semester of seminary, I switched my MDiv concentration from “academic research” to “pastoral care.” God made me want it, and showed me that that was who I was created to be — a pastor. I am grateful every day for that beautiful change that brought such beauty and sorrow and depth into my life.

    Reply
  16. Diane
    Diane says:

    A beautiful change occured last summer when I was inspired to change my attitude…from dwelling on my sadness at having been single for a really long time, to embracing the wonderful freedom that comes with being independent and in charge of my own decisions and schedule. I declared this my “year of adventure” and have tried to rejoice at opportunities to take last-minute roadtrips, try new things, and just generally celebrate all the great people and events in my life. At some point, a partner may come along and that will be an adventure, too, but for now I love my beautiful, unpredictable journey.

    Reply
  17. Marisa
    Marisa says:

    I think a beautiful change is coming. I am making the plans for a job change that will fulfill a call. It is incredibly scary as much will be sacrificed, but I am praying and trusting that the end esult will be a beautiful change in ministry as well as my overall sense of being. Reading the stories here are inspiring as I try to embrace what comes next!

    Reply
  18. Mary
    Mary says:

    A beautiful change came for me when God led me to two other women, inviting them to do weekly Bible Study. I so longed for women to journey with, but I struggled in small group settings. Women looked to me as the “expert,” and I was frustrated that I couldn’t just be me! I don’t always want to be the leader/teacher. God told me to reach out to these two women, and a year later, we have a beautiful fellowship of the heart.

    Reply
  19. Cassie
    Cassie says:

    This past year especially has been full of beautiful changes… seminary graduation, ordination, beginning first call, adopting a wonderful puppy, ending a dumb relationship. i was reflecting with some folks recently about Jesus’ invitation in John to live life abundantly & how we’re so suckered into thinking abundant life will happen with the next transition (after school… after job… after promotion… after… after… after….), that it can be so easy to “after” your life away, instead of living and celebrating abundant life now.

    Reply
  20. Leanna Fuller
    Leanna Fuller says:

    I left parish work six years ago to begin work on a doctorate in pastoral theology. That decision was born of a long period of discernment where I came to believe that my true vocation lies in helping to train future clergy for service in the church. I still believe that to be true, although the market for academic posts in my field is really tough right now. So, as I look toward finishing this degree in the fall (hopefully!), I am anticipating a season of beautiful change in my life as I seek to discover where the path ahead may lead. If it leads toward a teaching job, great! If not, I am willing to listen to the Spirit’s guidance and imagine new ways I might still fulfill my vocation by putting into practice what I’ve learned these last few years.

    Reply
  21. Julie Jensen
    Julie Jensen says:

    A beautiful change that happened to me involved a difficult conversation with a colleague that made me reexamine my call and other parts of my life. From the strengthening of that relationship, and lots (and lots and lots) of professional help, I am finding ways to better live into all that God has called me to – in church, home, and my personal life.

    Reply
  22. Erin K
    Erin K says:

    The most beautiful and recent change in my life is the birth of my daughter. Its been a wonderful and big adjustment, embracing on my identity as a mom. She continually amazes me. The next change I am working on, is getting her to sleep without a “bedtime battle”!

    Reply

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