Today’s party is kicked off by the ever-fabulous Stephanie Anthony, a longtime RevGal who knows how to get a party started!
I was one of the rare ones in my seminary class who came straight to seminary from my undergrad education, but it wasn’t something I had been planning for very long. A biology major in college, I wasn’t thinking about ministry at all until it got to the point where I needed to fill out grad school applications in my senior year. I just couldn’t muster up any energy at all to care about them. One November afternoon on the back of a fishing research boat, I just came to realize that I needed to scrap my plans and follow my passion. I had been heavily involved in my home Presbyterian church and the one in my college town. I had taken at least one religion class every semester of my college career. I led Bible studies; I assisted in worship. I had been to General Assembly, as well as served as a Global Intern through the Worldwide Ministries Division. While science made me feel smart, the things that gave me life and purpose were ministries. A few days later I was on a plane to visit my first seminary, and a few months later I was learning Greek. In seminary I thought I would be called into non-parish ministries. Maybe health/development international missions that would mix my science and faith education. I started seminary also working on a Masters in Public Health. In the end the continuity of congregational ministry, the chance to live with a community and grow together seemed to fit my sense of call best. I have served as a minister of Word and Sacrament for seventeen years, in three different calls and three different states. I love what I get to do (OK, except the newsletter articles), and I’m grateful to God for this call.
I didn’t give a whole lot of input into my ordination. The church I was being called to really wanted my ordination to take place right away, so it was planned for my first Sunday in the church. My official start day was June 1, 2002. I was ordained on June 2, 2002 in my first worship service with the church. My parents were there, along with my sister. My best friend from college came in, too. The associate pastor from my college church who was now serving in a new call came to participate as well, but other than these guests I barely knew a person in the sanctuary. The strangest memory from the day was the awkwardly huge hug I gave an elderly woman in the congregation whose great-nephew was one of the few young adults I had met before that morning. He introduced her to me when they came through the line, and I just reached out and grabbed her. So weird. We remembered it together, though, about 10 months later at my bridal shower before I married her great-nephew. Great Aunt Hazel’s 100th birthday is this weekend!
What keeps you going in ministry?
1. Wonderful colleagues in and out of my call and a coach to talk things through with.
2. Keeping things new – looking for new challenges, new ways to serve in the congregation, but especially beyond it.
What’s something you unexpectedly love about being a pastor?
I didn’t actually expect to love preaching. I was always very comfortable speaking in public and never afraid of preaching, but I was perfectly happy to be called as an associate pastor with once a month preaching responsibility when I started. I was fine doing it when it was my turn, but I didn’t love it. I love it now. I loved being a solo pastor where I got to discover my voice and carry themes through my preaching. I love being a pastor/head of staff with several preaching colleagues now, so I get to collaborate and be challenged by the folk with whom I share this task. I miss it when I go more than a couple of weeks without preaching, which happens occasionally. I never thought that would be the case.
What advice would you give those being ordained this month?
1. Maintain a spiritual life that works for you, and that doesn’t have to be a spiritual practice that looks like anyone else’s. I spent a whole lot of a energy feeling guilty that I didn’t have “morning quiet time,” or pray the order of daily prayer, or some other specified routine. Those aren’t my thing and trying to shoehorn them into my life was not helpful. Take care of your spirit and commune with God in ways that nourish you, even if they don’t look traditional.
2. Build a team of caregivers for yourself – colleagues, friends outside of ministry, a coach, a therapist, a spiritual director – some of all of these.
3. Enjoy ministry! There are hard parts and sad parts, for sure, and seasons that are extremely difficult, but following our call is also supposed to allow us a way to rejoice in God our Savior. If it’s not doing that consistently, it is faithful to consider a new call to a different church or ministry context or different form of service altogether.
Now it’s your turn—what keeps you going in ministry? What do you unexpectedly love? What advice would you give those just starting out?
Pull up a chair, bring some snacks, turn up the music…let’s celebrate our fellow RevGals and Pals in their ministry!
Teri Peterson is a minister in the Church of Scotland, and she is definitely not procrastinating on other work right this very moment. She’s also a board member of RevGalBlogPals, and an author who doesn’t write on her blog enough, but still wants you to read her books, as she contributed to the RevGals book There’s a Woman in the Pulpit, and is co-author of Who’s Got Time? Spirituality for a busy generation.
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