We Have What It Takes

Post Author: Alex Hendrickson

“Our Cloud of Witnesses” is a venue for exchanging the stories of those who surround us with strength and grace. Some may have gone before us. Some may be journeying right along side us. Some may have spoken to us out of history. Some may be our favorite characters out of a beloved book. Some may be those who are the most unexpected. Tell us who has shed light on your own journey of faith and vocation, and help us to see the many ways we are truly embraced and held up by a great cloud of witnesses. Submissions may be sent to witnesses(dot)ycw(at)gmail(dot)com.

FS AlexIn 2002, my spouse and had I both graduated from seminary and had began serving as a clergy couple in rural Kentucky. Soon after we arrived, I experienced an incredibly sexist and hurtful incident while participating in a community ministerial alliance. I remember feeling so alone in my sadness and frustration. Even though my husband was my co-pastor, he could only sympathize up to a certain point.

Last week was Holy Week 2014. One of my clergy sisters experienced an incredibly sexist and hurtful incident while participating in an ecumenical worship service in her community. Hundreds of clergy sisters from across the globe reached out to offer support, good humor, and suggestions. I imagine she felt the power of the Holy Spirit reaching out in the spirit of “You’re not the only one!”

I attended my first Young Clergy Women conference in August of 2007 and haven’t missed a summer gathering since. We’ve met in Washington D.C., then D.C. again, St. Louis, Atlanta, Raleigh, Chicago, and Nashville. The 2014 conference will take place in Minneapolis. And I’m going to miss out! I’ll be in New Mexico, as my spouse has his twentieth boarding school reunion. It is so disappointing that these two events are happening at the same time, because I am keenly aware of what I will be missing.

By not gathering with my clergy sisters in Minneapolis in July, I will miss:

  • An engaging continuing education experience.
  • A chance to check out everyone’s pedicures and cute sandals.
  • The opportunity to share resources and best practices.
  • Margaritas. Or red wine. Or both.
  • An international, intercultural, ecumenical experience of women called to serve Christ.
  • The chance to cuddle babies.
  • Singing. The blending of women’s voices in prayer and song is a specifically profound experience of the Divine.
  • Hanging out with the most intelligent, hilarious, diverse group of women I know.

I turned thirty the month before attending the first YCW conference in 2007; it was at that same conference that we held our first board meeting. We began the process of drafting our by-laws, brainstorming the birth of this publication, Fidelia’s Sisters, and affirmed our desire to gather both in-person and on-line on a regular basis. I remember my best friend asking what I thought I might accomplish in my thirties; looking back, I realize that The Young Clergy Women Project has been one of the greatest professional accomplishments I’ve ever been part of.

I’m sure many of you reading this piece have also read articles or listened to sermons that decry the internet as the end of the church/humanity/God/life as we know it. I offer this counternarrative  a little bit of testimony to lessen the digital doom-and-gloom parade –

The Young Clergy Women Project and the virtual and in-person relationships that have resulted from TYCWP have allowed me to remain in ministry.  

Even though my own denomination, the Presbyterian Church (USA), has been ordaining women for nearly sixty years, it can still be a lonely, difficult vocation for young women.

Ground-breaking author and politician Clare Booth Luce once said, Because I am a woman, I must make unusual efforts to succeed. If I fail, no one will say, ‘She doesn’t have what it takes.’ They will say, ‘Women don’t have what it takes.” I can absolutely affirm that Young Clergy Women have what it takes…to be there for you, to show you the ways you are loved and not alone, to surround you as witnesses to your own ministry. If you aren’t sure, I encourage you to go to Minneapolis this July to find support, sisterhood, and a big dose of the Holy Spirit.

Rev. Alex Hendrickson is the Director of Religious and Spiritual Life at Lafayette College.

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