My Daughter’s Baptism by Tammy Abee Blom

Audrey baptismAudrey was baptized on January 20, 2013. Back in the fall of 2012, she asked about why she had not been baptized and why she did not receive the bread and juice during communion. I told her about what it means to be a believer, to claim your faith, to decide that you want to follow Jesus. After several conversations, she shared, “You know I love God. I love Jesus in my heart. I want to be baptized.” And with that profession, I contacted our pastor for a date.

Now I am a Baptist at heart, and I had never envisioned that both my daughters would be baptized in the Methodist church. I had assumed our family would find a place among Baptists in South Carolina, but Baptists were not the family who welcomed us. Trinity United Methodist Church welcomed us with their worship, with their children’s ministries, and with the opportunity for me to participate by teaching Sunday school and leading in worship. We found our home at Trinity, and both my daughters found the words for professing faith at this church. So on January 20, the Trinity family celebrated Audrey’s baptism.

After the sermon, our pastor asked our family to stand with Audrey in front of banner which read, “Today God Spoke My Name–Audrey Irene.” Our pastor offered a prayer of blessing over the water and poured a generous amount into the font. And then, as our pastor and I had agreed, she asked Audrey these questions, “Do you believe in Jesus? Do you want to follow Jesus all your life? Do you want to be a part of this church?” With a determined and clear voice, Audrey answered, “I do” to each question. Rev. Jamieson-Ogg also asked Doug and me if we would nurture Audrey in her faith, and we agreed. Then, our pastor cupped water in her hands and poured the water over Audrey’s head as she said, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.” Our pastor asked the church if they would welcome Audrey in Christian love, and the church responded affirmatively. Then, as is the tradition at Trinity, the church serenaded Audrey. Tammy and familyAs she walked around the sanctuary, the congregation sang, “Audrey, Audrey, God claims you, God helps you, protects you and loves you too… And we this day to all agree a child of God you’ll always be.” After the blessing, Audrey received a baptism certificate and a candle, both to remind her of her baptism.

My prayer for Audrey during the baptism was that she would remember it, that she would recall the smiling faces singing words of assurance to her, that she would tell others of how cold the water was as it poured over her hair and face, and that she would remember the whimsy of the moment at which she waved at the choir and the entire adult choir waved back. I prayed that Audrey would have this moment of joyful acceptance in her memory so that it could sustain her when her faith felt distant or weak, and I prayed words of thanksgiving for the gift of church family that welcomed my child so wholeheartedly.

Audrey was baptized, and it was not at all like what I had pictured when she was an infant in arms. The experience was so much broader and richer than I could have imagined. And I am thankful.

Tammy Abee Blom is an ordained Baptist minister, regular contributor to BWIM’s blog, mother of two amazing daughters, teacher for children’s Sunday School, and lives in Columbia, South Carolina.

Call Story by Jaime Fitzgerald

Jaime Fitzgerald 2People ask me on a regular basis what my “call story” looks like. As I listen to other people share their call stories I sometimes become frustrated because I don’t have a succinct story that is in any sort of orderly fashion. I don’t have one of those stories that make people say “Aww” when I am finished talking. I don’t have one of those stories that makes people cry tears of joy. I don’t have one of those stories by which people are moved because I fell away from God’s calling and then fell back onto the right track. I’m just ME. My story is one where God asked me to join the journey and I said, “sure, that sounds alright.”

I have known since high school that God was, “calling me to ministry,” but I was never quite sure what that was going to look like. I went through a time period when I thought I was going to be a missionary in Africa. There was a point in time where I wanted to be a youth minister, and for a brief second, I even thought about learning how to play the piano and become some sort of church musician. I quickly realized though that the keys on the piano don’t just turn into a beautiful melody overnight. The thought of being a school teacher and a lay minister tickled my imagination for some time. Being the chair of deacons was an idea or even a medical missionary . . . you name it, and I probably thought about becoming it. There was something in the back of my mind all along though that I should become a pastor, but that notion never made it to my lips until much later because the idea of standing in front of a group of people on a weekly basis terrified me. Sometimes even now I become a bit afraid when people ask me what my future plans are, and I have to say the words, “I’m going to be a pastor.”

Thankfully, Derik Hamby, the pastor at my home church in Madison Heights Virginia, knew that God was going to do something incredible with my life, and he pushed me to try new things in worship services such as leading children’s sermons, teaching adult Sunday school classes here or there, and praying pastoral prayers. Derik allowed me to go on hospital visits and to see shut-ins with him. There were times when he would ask me to do things and say something along the lines of, “you’ll need to know this one day when you become a pastor.” I would shrug my shoulder, laugh, deny that I was going to be a pastor, and complete the task that was laid before me. Looking back, I am very thankful for the leadership of my pastor who gave me and continues to give me opportunities to serve the church so that I could accept the gifts that God has given me.

Jaime FitzgeraldMy calling became embedded in concrete as I sat in the Ashe-Henderson lecture series my freshmen year at Carson-Newman and heard Rev. Julie Pennington-Russell deliver a series of beautiful sermons that made my heart dance with joy for the first time in a long time. It was then, through hearing a female preach for one of the first times in my life that I knew God was calling me to pastor a church. It was in those moments of seeing with my own eyes a woman preach that I knew it was all going to fall into place. It was in those moments that I was able to break off the chains of fear and start falling into my calling to become a pastor. As I sat in the audience, I took in every word. I sat in awe even after the services were over because it was as if fog had been lifted from my soul and finally I could see and feel the presence of God in my call to preach.

This calling then continued and as the name defines itself, God keeps speaking to me and giving me opportunities to live out what I have been gifted to do. I’m excited about this adventure. I’m excited about the next stop on the journey after my time at Carson-Newman is finished. I can’t wait to see what is next with seminary and job opportunities.

Over the past year or so I have seen the slogan,“This is What a Preacher Looks Like.”  Some of my female minister friends wear the T-Shirt with that slogan. There is also a book published by Baptist Women in Ministry with that title. Over the past year I have made many wonderful preacher friends. As I look back on the past year, I am reminded that it was only a little over a year ago that I preached my first sermon. It was a little over a year ago that Randolph Memorial Baptist Church asked me to be their Martha Stearns Marshall preacher. On February 5, 2012 I stepped into the pulpit for the first time, and in that moment that God’s calling was confirmed. God is calling me to share the gospel and the love of Jesus with everyone I come in contact with.

Jaime and groupAs I stood in the pulpit for the first time, I didn’t realize that over the next year I would have the opportunity to preach five more times. During those moments of standing in front of the congregation, I did not realize that preaching was going to be something that was going to be a part of me for the rest of my life. I did not know that I was going to have the opportunity to meet so many Baptist women ministers. Over the past year I have had so many beautiful conversations with other women ministers and it brings me great joy to have the ability to learn from them and to grow and be challenged by them. Thank You! Thank you Julie Pennington-Russell, Christine Jones, Pam Durso, Molly Brummett, Nenette Measels, Kali Freels, Rhonda Blevins, Katrina Brooks, Julie Gaines, Kristen Koger, Lauren McDuffie, Molly Shoulta, Meagan Smith, Sara Robb, Ruth Perkins-Lee, Marilee Betz, and so many others who are preaching the Gospel of Love to a broken world. Preach on Sisters!

As I think of all of these beautiful women though, I can’t help but think of the men who have been there to support and affirm me and so many others. Thank You Derik Hamby, Dave McNeely, Ross Brummett, Todd Blake, Adam Tyler, Grant Carter, Mark Beck, Chad Hartsock, Gene Wilder, and the many others who do not just affirm women in ministry through words but more importantly through their actions. Their actions speak so much louder than words written on a page or spoken.

In early January 2013, I had the privilege to be a part of The Academy of Young Preachers festival in Atlanta, Georgia.  It was such a wonderful week. During the week I heard numerous powerful and authentic sermons from some young Baptist women like myself who represented Baptist Women in Ministry well. I’m thankful to be a part of a community of faith that affirms women in ministry. There were so many talented young women and men at this festival, which gives me great hope for the present and future of the church. I can’t wait to see the new life that will be brought into congregations very soon.

Martha Stearns Marshall Month of Preaching is coming soon in February. It’s not too late to ask a female minister to step into the pulpit to deliver her first sermon or her 100th sermon. It’s not too late to inspire the children of your church by asking a woman to preach so they can see and truly know that they can do anything that God calls them to.

Jaime Fitzgerald is a student at Carson-Newman College, Jefferson City, Tennessee. She will be the Martha Stearns Marshall preacher at First Baptist Church, Jefferson City. Reposted from Jaime’s blog Every Day is New.

Such Serious Business by Tammy Abee Blom

She is one of my Sunday school students in the first and second grade class, and you never know what she may do next. One Sunday, she called, “Miss Tammy, can I draw God?” And I replied, “Have at it.” Immediately, she popped back, “Can God be brown?” And I replied, “Sure enough.” Shortly she called me over to see her picture. I said, “That’s not brown. Did you change your mind?” And she said, “Yeah. God feels blue to me today. Is blue okay?” I assured her it was. After this experience, I came to expect a certain playfulness from this child, and she didn’t disappoint.

This past Sunday I served the bread as our church family took communion via intinction. My playful child came through the line with her grandmother, and I served her the bread of life. Towards the end of the communion line, she appeared again. Apparently, she had changed her seating from near the front with grandma to near the back with mom and dad. I smiled at her and offered the bread of life. She whispered, “I came back again.” I giggled, “Indeed you did.”

I enjoy her playfulness. Her beliefs that God changes colors and that seconds are always served at God’s table delight me. I love that this playful child is not constricted by what everybody else has told her about God. And I love that she is not restrained by the mantra of “that’s not how we do it here.” She is free to imagine God and free to experience church without the imposed rules that come with adulthood. She can experience God and church with freedom and joy. As I lead and teach this year, I want to experience God as bigger than what I already know about God. I want to spend time with people like Annie Lamott who can be with God in a playful manner. When tasked with a job at church, I want to ask, “Do we have to do this event this year? Do we have to follow the structure of how it has always been done?” God and church can be such a serious business for those of us who are called to ministry. This year I want to explore a more playful, freedom-giving side of both God and church. My playful student has inspired me.

Tammy Abee Blom is an ordained Baptist minister, regular contributor to BWIM’s blog, mother of two amazing daughters, teacher for children’s Sunday School, and lives in Columbia, South Carolina.

 

A New Vocabulary Word and Words for 2013 by Pam Durso

I learned a new word last summer from my friend, Meredith Stone. Liminality.

In her sermon at the Baptist Women in Ministry’s annual worship service, Meredith defined, described, and brought to life what was a new word in my vocabulary. And I have been pondering and exploring the significance of this word ever since.

Liminality. From the Latin “limin,” the word means “being in an intermediate state, phase, or condition; the in-between, the transitional.” Robert Fulghum, From Beginning to End: The Rituals of Our Lives defined liminality as the “transitional phase of personal change wherein one is neither in an old state of being nor a new, and not quite aware of the implications.” (Fulghum’s book was one of my favorite reads in 2012–I love his stories about celebrating, ritualizing the great moments of life).

Liminality. I think I am drawn to this word because I live there. Seems like I have always lived there. My address has always been “in transition,” “somewhere in-between.” And I am not alone. Liminality is a shared address. It is where we all live. We live in the not yet but almost. We have our memories, what we were, what we had, what we have been, but at the same time, we look longingly at our future, hoping for that which will be, what we shall become. We live in the middle–not in the past but not too close yet to the future. We have left the starting block but can’t quite see the finish line.

As 2012 ends and 2013 begins, I find myself again thinking about liminality, and wondering about all that this next year holds. I am not one to make resolutions, but I am one who reflects long and hard on what has been and then ponders on what is yet to come.

As is most often true for me, I have found help in reading the words of others.  And today I find comfort, inspiration, and hope in words written by Barbara Hamilton-Holway in 2002, in her book Evensong: An Eight-Week Series of Gatherings: 

Now you are ready–
As ready as you are going to be.
Neither you nor the world can wait for your fears to subside.
Step forward.
You need no more preparation.
You need no longer be on the outside observing.
The world awaits not your timid hesitation,
Not your clever critique,
Not your tidy observations.
The world invites your participation-
right here,
right now,
Come, partake.
Speak. Listen.
Love boldly. 
 

My hope for myself and for you in 2013 is that we will step forward. We will partake . . . and speak . . .  and listen, but most of all we will love, and we will love boldly–even as we dwell in liminality. May it be so.

Pam Durso is the executive director of Baptist Women in Ministry, Atlanta, Georgia.