It’s a new month, so it’s time to celebrate some ordiversaries!! This month we have the Rev. Sharon Sheridan Hausman, an Episcopal priest, to kick off this party. Sharon is celebrating her SECOND ordiversary this year — what a time to have entered ministry! You’ll love her story, and I hope you’ll share a bit of yours in the comments, so we can celebrate one another! Let’s get this party started!
Tell us a bit about your journey into ministry.
I’ve been involved in the Episcopal Church and various ministries all of my life, but my call to ordained ministry initially was a second-career surprise (at least to me). I have worked as a professional writer since I was in high school, earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and continue occasionally to write or do editing projects for church publications. I saw this work as vocation and ministry.
I initially resisted the idea that I might be called to ordained ministry, thinking of all the reasons it seemed impractical or impossible. And then, one day, I stopped listing the “why nots” and asked: “What if?” I’ve been following that “what if” forward ever since.
I have discovered that there are many transferrable skills between journalism and ordained ministry, and I agree with my friend who told me that “there’s no waste in God’s economy.” Nonetheless, I was surprised when I described myself in an essay as having a late-life call and my CPE colleagues said they saw evidence of my call much earlier in my vocational journey.
What’s something you remember from your ordination?
I was ordained an Episcopal priest on June 22, 2019, at Christ Church in Bloomfield and Glen Ridge, New Jersey, by Bishop Carlye J. Hughes. She is the Diocese of Newark’s first female and first African-American bishop, and I was her first priestly ordination (and first diaconal ordination the previous December).
One of the really wonderful things I remember is how so many people from different times and places in my life participated and attended, and how diverse they were in so many ways – age, race, gender, culture, sexual orientation, denomination, liturgical sensibilities, etc. I was thrilled that so many of my Drew Theological School colleagues and professors were there, including the Rev. Dr. Heather Elkins as preacher and Dr. Mark Miller helping to lead a large combined choir and play the postlude. To top it off, my son played a Bach prelude and added to the choir accompaniment on cello. I have felt doubly grateful for all of this because less than a year later the pandemic forced ordination services to be mostly online, with only a few participants allowed to attend and music options limited.
What have you found most useful about your seminary / training experience as you have entered ordained ministry at such a challenging time? What do you keep leaning on that you learned in seminary?
I had one online class and a few more limited experiences on Zoom while in seminary, which proved very helpful when the whole world suddenly began conducting meetings and worship services on Zoom and similar platforms.
The most valuable thing I learned that helped in these peculiar pandemic ministry times, however, probably was flexibility and the ability to think on my feet and “out of the box” liturgically. My experience with children’s ministry before seminary started the process. But I really grew through participating in the choir and chapel services at my seminary, which was a very ecumenical United Methodist institution that incorporated varied worship styles and music a certain level of spontaneity particularly by the choir director. I also led worship in some unconventional settings during my field work outside the seminary.
All of this prepared me to remain calm and adjust mid-stream when things don’t go right during a Zoom worship service (such as my first Sunday, when Zoom experienced a nationwide outage; or the times the Zoom host plays the wrong music; or when my cat joins worship; or all of those “you need to mute/unmute” moments). I’ve also been able to draw on an expanded musical repertoire, beyond our standard hymnal, and to adapt prayers and liturgies for current events and the online circumstances.
Even though 70% of your ordained life so far has been in a pandemic, what unexpected joys have you had in ministry?
I lost my first church job due to the pandemic and have spent the past year as the regular supply clergy for some congregations without clergy. One of the great joys has been seeing how a small congregation of people from different places can form community, actively participate in services and support each other online. I love that my parents, who live in another state, the organist’s parents, who live several hours away, and friends of mine from Mexico, whose church is closed and not online, all have become part of our Zoom services. I also lead prayer services twice a month via conference call for a small congregation, and it is inspiring to witness such strong lay leadership and members’ concern for one another.
Ironically, being forced online for meetings has allowed me to get to know some of my colleagues better and provided much more time with our bishop than we ordinarily would have. On Zoom, we meet regularly with the bishop, and I’ve also participated in various committees and groups (including a diocesan program for new clergy) that have allowed for more frequent interaction than during a typical church year. Thanks to Zoom, a women’s ecumenical clergy group I joined about 6 months before the pandemic shutdown also has been able to continue meeting monthly, which might not have been possible after two of the members moved to new calls a significant distance away in 2020.
What advice would you give those being ordained this month?
Enjoy your ordination service and celebration! Take some time on retreat either before or afterward.
As you move into your ministry, remember to attend to your own spiritual life and self-care. Continue to learn and grow. Get to know your clergy colleagues. Participate in diocesan (or equivalent) ministries or programs, but don’t take on too much at once. Maintain contact with your seminary colleagues – you can provide both resources and support for each other. And have fun!
Thank you Sharon! happy ordiversary!
How about you, other June-ordained friends? What is something you learned in seminary that has served you well in ministry? Tell us about your ordinations and let us celebrate with you!
Teri Peterson is a minister in the Church of Scotland, where she ministers to a fantastic congregation in the most beautiful place, and lives in perhaps the nation’s best manse with the best view and a 15 year old cat who is the actual pickiest eater in the universe. She is the liturgy writer for the BibleWorm podcast, blogs (very) occasionally at CleverTitleHere, co-authored the book Who’s Got Time: Spirituality for a Busy Generation, and serves on the RevGalBlogPals board.
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