Happy February, friends! We are in that part of the year where we know the cusp of a new season is just around the corner, but we’re not quite there yet…hang on! To help you cope, this month’s ordiversary party is a special one—a decade party! Holly Smith, who is kicking off the party, has been ordained 10 years this month, and I hope you’re as excited to celebrate as I am.
1. Tell us a little about your journey into ministry.
Growing up, my family never attended church, but I went to every Vacation Bible School (Holiday Club) available in my Texas town during the summer months. My babysitter also sometimes invited me to attend church with her at the Catholic Church and later a Baptist Church. As a curious little kid, I asked a ton of questions which often were met with frustration. However, my curiosity about Christianity grew and in university, I took a mythology class in which we read the book of Genesis. One evening, I wonder out loud about going to church because I had more questions. My boyfriend responded to my query with, “I’ll go to church with you if we go to the Presbyterian Church.” Presbyterian seemed like an odd name for a Christian to me, but I agreed to check it out. We went to Westminster Presbyterian in Nacogdoches, TX, the most loving, kind, non-threatening church. They answered all my questions with integrity and encouraged my curiosity. In my final semester of university, I decided to apply to seminary because my thirst for understanding and biblical knowledge still lay unquenched. I think I knew at the time God was leading me to parish ministry.
2. What’s something you remember from your ordination?
On February 1, 2009, I was ordained at Westminster Presbyterian in Nacogdoches. The same church my husband and I married in and baptized our first-born at. I remember the choir most vividly as university students, church members, and music professors sang the most beautiful pieces I had ever heard.
3. Share something of how you have experienced ministry as a young woman, and a young mom.
When I first entered parish ministry as an associate minister with three small children, I often felt like I was drowning. Despite a church full of kind people, I struggled to find my place. I knew early on what gifts I possessed and how they fit and did not fit the dynamics of this large suburban church: little help existed, and criticism overflowed. The 25-year-old me knew a lot about theology and scripture, but not how to create balance, listen fully, or speak up. However, my next call as a solo pastor came with church folks that protected my boundaries and loved my children fiercely. There, I learned to ask for help, and I also learned that no vison or dream was too big. We journeyed together, and I found my voice.
4. Tell us a bit about how ministry has shifted for you over the years, from small churches to teaching to now a new country.
In my first seven years of ministry, I served churches full-time in Florida and Iowa; then my husband accepted a graduate school placement in Houston which took us back to Texas. There, I served as a parish associate, supply preached, and taught 7th grade English full-time. Although my bachelor’s degree was in English Education, I had not expected to ever teach. Teaching inner city middle school kids comes with crazy joys and extreme struggles. I loved coaching, and literature; however, just like youth ministry, I did not always love parents. While in Houston, I also returned to school to earn a master’s in counseling. Last year, when my husband graduated, I knew I needed to go back to the church full-time as my heart felt fullest when ministering. We decided to take a huge leap as I transferred from the PCUSA to the Church of Scotland, and we moved our four kiddos to Aberdeen, Scotland. Six months in, we know we made the right choice as we see our children take on a whole new culture and thrive. Ministry in Scotland feels like ministry in the states except with more tea and fantastic accents.
5. What advice would you give someone being ordained this month?
Get to know your people. Love them for who they are without any expectations that they may change. Learn to listen fully, don’t interrupt, and look for the good. Take time outs, breathe deeply, and then get up… hope is always around the corner. Ministry requires a variety of facial expressions, practice all the faces. The more you know about church building mechanical systems, the more they expect you to do; learn as little as possible.
I don’t know about you, but I think that last sentence may just sum it up!
How about you, friends? Join the celebration by sharing your ordination memories and advice to new ordinands here!
Teri Peterson is a minister in the west of Scotland, where she lives with her cat and a great view and an amazing church in a fabulous town. She’s an author you can find in the RevGals book, as well as co-author of Who’s Got Time: Spirituality for a Busy Generation. In her free time she reads and cooks without recipes and looks out the window.
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