Sunday, October 01, 2006

Thanks y'all

A couple of weeks ago, I made a request of about a half dozen ordained United Methodist ministers whose journeys have intersected mine as I acknowledged a sense of call, as I considered leaving a 20-year career in journalism, as I walked for a time with a foot in each world, as I entered seminary, as I began working in worship, as I took baby steps into ministry.

These women -- remarkable all -- have shared themselves openly, warmly and candidly. What I have appreciated most is their ability to speak the truth about their lives and the church and their ministries. Their honesty and integrity have helped me each step along the way, from that first sense of an inner voice speaking to me at 2 a.m. seven years ago all the way through worship this morning, where I experience the gift of getting to be in ministry with one of these women.

Their candor about the challenges of ordained ministry, in particular, helped me consider major life decisions with my eyes wide open. I can't say I didn't know...

But recently, I was longing to hear these same wise and wonderful women speak of the joys of ministry. So I asked.

And the responses did not pour in, they trickled.

These women are ponderers and not given to simply blurting out the first thing that comes into their minds when the question is asked -- not even the expressive, extroverted ones.

So, over the past fortnight, I have delighted in finding hope each time one of them answered.

A group of homeless children transformed summer Vacation Bible School at one woman's church and allowed her and her congregation to continue in meaningful connection with these children. "Suddenly, I remembered why I was in the business - to love God's children... Their presence has been a joy to me - in reaffirming my call and in providing me with a spark of what I was placed on earth for... "

A consistent theme among these women was the joy they experience when their ministries lead them to opportunities to help people find their place not just in the church but, more importantly, their connection with God.

One woman spoke of the privilege of being present at moments of "creation" within someone's life -- those "conversion" times when challenging life circumstances or painful self-awareness lead to creative transformation.

Another woman wrote of similar times and suggested that the joy comes from her recognition not only of the presence of "the wily holy Spirit" in those moments but in the opportunities she has to "be something like midwife for the Spirit's work."

The most consistently candid of these women wrote of spiritual joys but also wrote of the practical joy of sometimes being able to see the wood of her desk. She also wrote of the joy of "speaking more plainly in love to challenge someone to be accountable." And she wrote of the joy of authentic laughter.

A woman who sees a vision for the future of the church that the church may not yet see wrote of the joy of seeing churches raise up and value leaders who are different from their congregations. One joy came at a UMW event where a young Korean woman who is an MDiv student spoke and another came in the midst of John Rutter's Requiem, conducted by an African-American man.

Even requiems lead to joy! As do funerals. One woman's joy came in words of praise from a stranger -- not sent to her but to someone else -- conveying what a meaningful and sacred space she created in her memorial service for his colleague that celebrated the fullness of the Christian life even through death and beyond.

And one woman's joy came at the communion table, where she knows almost all of her congregation not only by name but by the challenges and joys and gifts and graces they bring to that communal meal.

It has been my joy to share these joys, but more importantly, it has been my joy to get to share in the lives and ministries of these women.

Thanks, y'all.

And thanks be to God for the joys that come even in the midst of the challenges.

1 comment:

see-through faith said...

so encouraging to read this

oh and welcome to rev gals too !