Happy Eastertide, everyone!
This month we are kicking off the Ordiversary Party with the delightful Claire Beutler-Cruise — a UCC pastor who, I learned from this interview, was ordained on the very same day that I attended a church service on my own for the first time in my life! The second Sunday of Easter 1999 was a momentous day for Claire. Read on to learn more about her story, and pop into the comments to join the party with your own stories and wisdom!
Tell us a bit about your journey into ministry.
I felt the Call to ordained ministry in 1976 (at the age of 26), as part of an Evangelism Committee in my Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod congregation (a conservative, patriarchal denomination that still doesn’t ordain women or open LGBTQIA++ persons). I was awed and moved by the ability of the Good News of Godde’s love for humans—even humans like me—to change lives. My Pastor’s response was, “Well, wouldn’t you know, the only person I’ve ever inspired to go to seminary is a woman!” (He repeated that at my ordination! But, his presence there could’ve caused him ecclesiastical repercussions—and still, he attended!) He inspired me to recognize that if he could do it, so could I! I was newly married, and when my husband was offered a job in another state, I made sure a college was nearby where I could earn my bachelor’s degree to prepare for seminary. We joined a Lutheran branch that ordains women. Along the way, we became foster parents, our first daughter was born and died at 16 days old (which caused a theological crisis, taking years to work through), and two more children were born. A second move out of state finally brought me to my graduation, after 12 years. Then, working a for a few years, I had resources to apply to a seminary of my new denomination. I was overjoyed to FINALLY be accepted! After commuting to Chicago weekly for 3 of the 4 year Master of Divinity, I graduated in 1998.
What’s something you remember about your ordination?
At the age of 49, I was one of the two last in our class (both, women) to receive a Call to a congregation. I’d participated in the ordinations of most of my classmates. So, at my ordination, I was touched that many of my classmates also participated in mine. Thirty-five years (to the day) from my Confirmation, on April 11, 1999, I was ordained at my home congregation, Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Milwaukee, WI, USA. It was a 3 hour extravaganza celebrating Godde’s calling to ALL peoples. Many things stand out: the diverse Traditions, peoples and music; being Presented by Rev. Marie Aviles de Jesus (a dear 84 year old mentor and member of my home congregation—who gave me her stoles in retirement); and the laying on of hands. The most outstanding was consecrating the Eucharist for the first time, with a dear (woman) friend and classmate presiding with me. In that moment, I especially felt the Holy Spirit filling that place, and knew that if I could welcome people to Godde’s table, ANYONE would be welcomed to do the same. I’ve since moved to the United Church of Christ.
Over such a long and varied career, what has been your favourite aspect of ministry?
My favorite aspect of ministry is pastoral care. I’ve always been a deep listener and have been able to find a word of affirmation, grace and/or hope in the stories people entrusted to me. It’s Sacred ground when people make themselves vulnerable to trust another. I felt a sense that, as a pastor, my physical presence and words carried the presence and grace of Godde to someone else. I also enjoyed creating Children’s Messages that were fun, interactive and—most importantly—conveying Godde’s deep love for them—each of them a unique, one-of-a-kind, unrepeatable miracle of Godde, a gift–in and of themselves–from Godde to the world.
What is something you did learn in seminary that you keep going back to?
In my Lutheran Traditions class, I learned from the late, great, Rev. Dr. Albert “Pete” Pero that true religions have 3 identifying characteristics (one of which I can’t remember for the life of me!): 2. it must be historical; and 3. all people must be able to see themselves in it. I would humbly add to that that all people must be able to see themselves in it in a positive way, as Beloved beings in Godde’s eyes and heart.
What advice would you give to those being ordained this month?
I advise newly ordained women to practice good self-care; take all your designated time “away;” find good, trustworthy colleagues and mentors who are safe to confide in; keep a file with all the cards, notes, emails, etc. affirming your Calling (I labeled mine “Cloud of Witnesses”); always allow Godde’s Spirit to guide your way; and trust the Spirit is at work within you, even when you don’t feel Her!
Thank you, Claire, for your ministry and for sharing your story with us! And happy ordiversary!!
How about you, friends? What’s something you DID learn in seminary that you keep going back to? What advice would you give those being ordained this month? You April-ordiversaries, tell us about your ordination and let us celebrate with you!
Teri Peterson is a Church of Scotland minister in the west of Scotland, a member of the Board of RevGalBlogPals, and a now-occasional blogger at Clever Title Here. She is a 7 on the Enneagram and loves a good party, and now that those are all online, she loves ordiversaries even more!
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