Happy ordiversary, August-ordained friends! This month’s party is being kicked off by the delightful and amazing Elisabeth Spence, who is celebrating TWENTY-FIVE YEARS ordained this month! woohoo!
Tell us a bit about your journey into ministry.
I was the Head of a residential school for children with emotional and social needs going about my merry business when I was called to ministry. It felt like the most silly idea on earth as I had only been a committed Christian for six months and there I was getting a real sense I was being called to the ordained ministry. But it seemed it was to be so off I went to New College, Edinburgh University with a sharp pencil and a dull brain ready to train as a minister in the Church of Scotland.
After my training I was a parish minister in Lochee Old & St Luke’s Church, Dundee, Scotland for five lovely years. I then moved into Workplace Chaplaincy where I worked as a Chaplain with two shopping malls and the local authority council in the city of Glasgow, Scotland. This was a wonderful eight years of hanging about other people’s work places taking the opportunity to have a chat to people on a whole range of topics from comments on the latest story line in a soap opera to debating the effectiveness or not of the current government to supporting someone through bereavement. We used the phrase ‘loitering with intent’ to describe our work.
I then found myself called back to the parish and became the minister of Ibrox Parish Church in Glasgow. The church was (and remains) a real resource to the community running a Food Bank, hosting a charity that works with children and young people who have been bereaved and also hosting and working with a Metropolitan Community Church with outreach to the LGBTQ+ community.
Then onto my current post as a Pioneer Minster. I am living and working in an area with 1,200 new houses, a school and nothing else. So I am amongst people who are my neighbours to Make Connections, Build Community and Share Faith. I am having a great deal of fun finding ways to be church in the most undefined way . There is nothing remotely like a church service but as I hang about my blue gazebo at the pop up Coffee Stop I have all manner of deep, personal conversations with people and I talk more theology than I ever did in the parish. My phrase for this is ‘theology on the hoof!’
Tell us something you remember about your ordination?
I was ordained on 16th August 1995 in Lochee Old and St Luke’s Church, Dundee, Scotland which quite startlingly means I have been ordained for 25 years! It was a very special occasion as it felt like the beginning of a very exciting journey – this has proved to be the case!
I have a two abiding memories of the day. At the laying on of hands I was waiting to feel a real sense of God confirming that I was in the right place, doing the right thing. But as all the other ministers gathered round me and I knelt down all I can remember was the smell of shoe polish from lots of men’s newly polished shoes!
However, the confirmation of my call came later in the service when the minister preaching used the words from John Wesley that I had not heard before then.
Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.
And I have used those words as a guide throughout my ministry.
What was a defining moment in your ministry on a personal level?
The Church of Scotland has made slow but sure steps forward over the issue of human sexuality over the last 15 or so years. This coupled with the change in civil law to allow same sex civil partnerships then marriage made it more possible for me to come out to my congregation in Glasgow. It was a moment of deep anxiety for me as I wasn’t sure how it would be received in a very traditional church community. I was in a relationship and we wanted to have a civil partnership so I wrote to all the elders to tell them and then made an announcement to the whole congregation on the Sunday. My blood pressure was raised as a senior elder marched purposefully towards me after the service and I was sure he was going to have a negative comment to make. So I was stunned when he threw his arms round me and said ‘Fantastic news! We love Denise.’ That was the tone thereafter and people wanted to know when the party was!
That complete acceptance from a people who I had grown to love was a truly defining moment in my life as a minister and more importantly their minister. Oh and we had a party!
What’s something you didn’t learn while training but has been important as you’ve been in ministry over the years?
Something that I had to work out for myself and was never really discussed in training was the art of people wrangling! Using a mixture of intuition, discussion and sense of humour I manage to work successfully with some very tricky people who have forceful ideas and personalities. I am compromiser and as long as I can see someone is making attempts to move towards a resolution I am also prepared to adapt my ideas to reach a mutually agreed conclusion.
What advice would you give to those being ordained this month?
When I was a newly ordained minister I asked a very wise minister for words of advice. He said to me, ‘Never find out how the boiler system works.’ .. I took from it two meanings . Firstly, if you set yourself up to micro manage every practical thing in your church you will burn out before your first anniversary!
Secondly, one of your jobs as a leader is to allow people to develop their skills and gifting and for that you need to give them space to develop and explore all those possibilities. You don’t need to know how the boiler works you can just benefit from the fact that it does.
thanks, friend! Now, dear reader, over to you! If you were ordained in August: what do you remember from your ordination? And what advice would you give to those being ordained now? Join in the party in the comments!
Rev. Teri Peterson is a minister in the Church of Scotland, living on the west coast with her cat and an amazing view. She serves on the Board of RevGalBlogPals, and she loves a good party. #enneagram7
RevGalBlogPals encourages you to share our blog posts via email or social media. We do not grant permission to cut-and-paste prayers and articles without a link back to the specific post. For permission to use material in paper publications, please email revgalblogpals at gmail dot com.