Happy Ordiversary!! This month’s party is being kicked off by Original RevGal Kathryn Zucker Johnston, whose late night emails with friends became the 11th Hour Preacher Party. She serves as Head of Staff at a PC(USA) church in Pennsylvania, and she is well known among longtime RevGals for her pithy sayings that offer wisdom we didn’t even know we needed to hear.

That’s KZJ in the middle, with her son W and her wife M by her side. Yes, she really is that tall.

Tell us a bit about your journey into ministry.
This is a major non-story actually. I grew up and was very active in the Presbyterian Church (eventually the PCUSA) and I always felt loved and welcomed there. When it was time to figure out what came after high school, I figured I’d go into Youth Ministry because then you get to go on the ski trips for free! After serving in Youth Ministry after graduating from college, I felt Called to go to seminary and pursue ordination.

I was ordained in Winter Haven, Florida in the church (First Presbyterian) and Presbytery (Tampa Bay) that had “sponsored me” in September of 2001. I was living in Pennsylvania, and my second day in the office of my solo pastorate was on September 11, 2001. I remember having to make phone calls and saying things like, “I know there are far more important things going on, but if I don’t get ordained I can’t serve in this Call… are you able to be part of the commission?”

For a few years now you’ve been part of a clergy couple—what’s that been like? How has it affected your ministry, how have y’all managed both calls, etc?
Being a part of a clergy couple has been an absolute win-win for me. Martha is so wise about what it takes to do ministry – practically, spiritually, theologically – so I basically have a live-in clergy coach. She’s great about only offering if I ask, and we enjoy working on classes and sermons together. This summer we even preached together and that was so much fun! Our biggest challenge is when she has a Call that takes her away on Sunday mornings. We both really like to worship together, even if one of us is in the pew and the other is in the pulpit. My ministry has definitely benefitted from us being together, but I am very aware that she has sacrificed some of the things she could do in ministry so that I could have the Head of Staff Call.

You’ve served really different churches in your ministry so far — what would you say have been the gifts of being in those different contexts? (Small / big, bigger/smaller populations, styles, etc)
Being a solo pastor right out of the seminary gate was the smartest thing I could have done. I immediately was thrown into the challenge of preaching and worship leadership every week (the relentless return of Sunday) and learned very quickly that book-learning meant nothing if the people didn’t trust your heart. That has remained the truth regardless of the size of the congregation. That solo pastorate gave me the gift of patience (I mean, I’ve looked back at some of those sermons – yikes!) and the confidence to know I could handle a lot of the behind-the-scenes stuff that they just don’t teach you during your 15 credits of Church History in seminary! Also, people are people – regardless of church size you’re going to be dealing with the same personalities for better or worse.

What advice would you give to people being ordained this month?
The congregation is never going to tell you that you’ve worked enough this week, go home. You have to do it. There is no special reward for putting in 60-80 hour weeks (this is advice I’m currently not using so feel free to use it).
Don’t sacrifice your family on the altar of the perfect sermon.
Don’t send that email until you’ve slept on it overnight.
Breathe deep and pray daily. Seriously… no, I mean it.

Thanks Kathryn! Wise and eloquent, as always. And thanks for years of friendship and advice too—I’m glad to celebrate your ordiversary with you, and to have you in this amazing community of RevGals.

How about you, September-ordained friends? What memories, stories, or advice do you have?

Teri Peterson is a minister in the Church of Scotland. She lives along the beautiful Firth of Clyde, and serves a fantastic church in a gorgeous community. She is co-author of Who’s Got Time: spirituality for a busy generationWho’s Got Time: spirituality for a busy generation, a board member of RevGalBlogPals, and a contributor to There’s A Woman in the Pulpit.

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3 thoughts on “Ordiversary Party: September fun!

  1. ‘…and the confidence to know I could handle a lot of the behind-the-scenes stuff that they just don’t teach you during your 15 credits of Church History in seminary!’
    Hmm, then your lecturers were clearly not teaching you Church History properly…tsk!
    My top 5 superbly pertinent to parish ministry lectures include:
    ‘Simon Stylites sorts the photocopier’;
    ‘Reforming rotas: Knox and Calvin on volunteer coordination, and the importance of good coffee’;
    and of course ‘Puritan piety and potluck suppers for any occasion’

    fan of foxy Knoxy, and Johnny ‘do-wop’ Calvin 😉


  2. “Born again” on the first Sunday of Lent, 1974. Yes, really, that’s what it felt like. I was in such a deep depression that I actually was saying to myself, “This is what it feels like to be dead.” Then in the middle of a Presbyterian sermon, heard for the second time that day, the light burst in and life has never been the same. After a few months I thought about ministry (I was 27) but never went anywhere with it. In fact I eventually learned to keep that door shut, until 23 years later when God knocked me over the head to make me realize I was starving myself. Then when I was agonizing over what to do with my life, a Benedictine sister (my spiritual director) asked if I’d ever considered ordination. When a nun asks a Protestant woman that question, you gotta pay attention. The locked door had been ripped from its hinges. So I started seminary in 1999 and knew instantly that I was home. And after seminary, no call. In the meantime I took two courses from the Shalem Institute, in group leadership and spiritual direction. Still no call, and not many people looking for a spiritual guide either. Finally, 12 years after being certified to seek a call, came a half-time stated supply at a congregation I never would have considered a good fit. Ordained September 18, 2016. The next week, on the 25-mile drive to church, I totaled the car. And now, at 72, I’m still not convinced this church is where I belong, but I’m tired and don’t want to look for anything else. I do love them, though!


  3. This year, my ordiversary falls on what will be the final Sunday in my present call…. it feels good and right that happenchance of 14 years ministry after 8 years and 7 months in a call.
    My next charge will begin on 17 October, so following the Presbytery Meeting on October first, I have 16 days to pack, move, unpack and get oriented. I’m so thankful for this fellowship of RevGals which has been part of my life for about the same amount of time as the current call.
    I love my church (CofScotland) and look forward to the new start and the challenges ahead, not just personally, but for the whole church as we are undergoing a radical reformation and major adjustments.
    Kathryn’s advice – don’t send that email until you’ve slept on it is perfect!


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