Pastors E-Letter 2/5/21
When I was 15 years old, I began to hear a whisper, that I later identified as God’s voice, speaking to me about a call to something bigger than myself: God’s church.
At the time, I was pretty naive. I knew that this call was a big deal, but there’s truly no way at 15 and 16 years old to know what a call to God’s church in ordained ministry would mean. And the longer time went on, the more “Who, me?!” moments I had that were akin to Isaiah’s, “I am a man of unclean lips, from a people of unclean lips.” Or, Moses, “I can’t do this!” Doubt and faith, darkness and light, grief and assurance accompanied me on my journey to accepting this call completely. A bush was never set on fire for me, but graciously, God’s voice continued to speak through the work of the church and the people around me, encouraging me forward.
This process of call and response followed me along through the United Methodist Church’s (arduous!) ordination process. At 19 years old, seven years ago, I was confirmed as a candidate for ministry. (In a weird, small world way, it was Pastor Annette serving as my District Superintendent that first accepted me to begin this process. Isn’t God cool?!) I still didn’t know what I was doing. But as I continued, God’s Holy Spirit worked mischievously. In 2015, it brought me to Duke Divinity School. In 2018, it worked in the Board of Ordained Ministry to have me confirmed as a commissioned elder, and it brought me to you at Suntree. On Wednesday, the Holy Spirit whispered Her affirmation again when the Board of Ordained Ministry graciously approved me to be ordained as an Elder in Full Connection. In regular people's language, I’ve made it through my probationary period and they see me fit to continue in ministry with less direct supervision from the Conference. This is very good news!
In more plain people speak, that’s all, folks! There’s no other news attached to this celebratory affirmation. For now, I plan to continue in mission and ministry as the Associate Pastor here at Suntree. I cannot begin to thank you all for the affirmation and this welcoming, loving place to live out my call. Really, seriously. I can’t imagine a better first appointment, a better senior pastor, a better staff and leadership team to work with. Of course, the church is always an imperfect body. But I feel profoundly called and affirmed to work alongside you for the building of God’s kingdom here.
And there is much to celebrate! This week, we’ll conclude our Healing Practice of Celebration sermon series with Celebration in a Divided World. Jesus prays for his followers in John 17 “... that they may be one.” What an intimate, important, difficult word from Jesus to God! Yet, this isn’t didactic. It is an invitation for that same Holy Spirit that whispers wild and wondrous dreams to God’s people to indwell in us, binding us, God’s church, together in real unity. Real unity isn’t false niceties, either. It is hard, sometimes painful, always growth-oriented work to see people as the children of God that they are. And when we do it right? Well, that’s cause for a big celebration!
The church as a whole and this church, in particular, have transformed me as a person living in this divided world. Each day, living in mission and ministry with you, I feel the same whispers of the Holy Spirit inviting me into a stronger relationship with God, and with God’s church. I am a better person, daughter, sister, and friend because I have been challenged to love those who are different from me in God’s church. The same call I heard at 15 has a lot more shape now, but it is still one to a purpose and love larger than myself: God’s kingdom at work here on Earth. It isn’t just my call, either; it is all of ours! And it is a call to the hard, good work of unity in the body and unity in the Spirit.
So, in case you forgot: God is still in the inviting and calling business! God calls each of us to be a part of this unified body, sharing God’s grace with the world. There is much to celebrate!
Thank you for all you do, and who you are. I wouldn’t be me without you. Really, seriously.