It Fees Like Home to Me . . . by Kristy Bay

Kristy Bay 1I have always had an abnormally sensitive sense of smell. I am the person who compliments friends on different lotions and perfumes, the one who can describe how each friend’s house has a distinct smell, and the one who can often guess which particular fragrance someone is wearing. Oh yeah, I am also the one who receives some pretty weird looks for saying things like, “Ooo, this tastes like the smell of Christmas” when I sipped my first Chai tea latte at Starbucks. I finally have received a little validation that I am not hopelessly weird from the scientific studies that have officially linked sense of smell and memories . . . . so yes, I have a Christmas lotion, a springtime perfume, a summer scent, because over time, certain fragrances remind me of specific memories.

Lest you think I’m crazy, the use of smells to bring back memories works on a lot of people. Many realtors put cookies in the oven, or set a pot of cinnamon, cloves, and vanilla, to boil when trying to sell a home. Why? Because certain smells just seem to evoke images of home. They can make you pause, inhale deeply, and think, “Yeah. This feels like home.”

As one who has journeyed far and wide to discover her calling, I have struggled throughout the years to describe how, exactly, I realized that I was called into ministry. The simplest way I can say it is that worship simply feels like home to me. I have served on staff at several different congregations, preached at many more, and attended all different styles of worship services. I have lived in three different states and traveled to eleven different countries, and I have worshipped in all those different locations. The one unifying element to all of my different settings and circumstances, other than the presence of a Starbucks, was no matter where I was worship felt like coming home.

All this sounded sort of strange . . . that is, until I was reminded of the scripture passages that describe fragrant offerings of worship . . . that tell of Christ being offered as a fragrant offering (Eph.5), or that tell us that we are the aroma of Christ in the world (2 Cor. 2). These verses helped me understand why I often go into a worship service, breathe in deeply, and feel as if I have come home. It is as if the presence of God is the smell of chocolate chip cookies in the oven, and the act of worship is like catching that familiar whiff of grandma’s perfume. Those smells that remind me that I have come home—home to God’s welcoming embrace—no matter where I am geographically, spiritually, or emotionally.

Kristy Bay is associate pastor of youth and education, Milledge Avenue Baptist Church, Athens, Georgia.

 

A Day in the Life by Peggy Haymes

Peggy Haymes photo smallIt is 8:30 a.m., and I have already finished my first session of the day. I would rather see someone at 7:30 in the morning than 7:30 in the evening, so I can’t complain. Except I always do when I’m leaving the house.

Today is a rare day today–no more clients on the schedule, but that doesn’t mean I’m taking it easy. I have a call to return about a referral. There are the endless notes to be filed and billing to be done. Billing has special priority since it is the critical factor in whether or not I get paid. Such factors tend to focus one’s attention.

But for the rest of the day I’ll mainly be wearing my writer/publisher hat. A new book that’s been long in coming is almost here, and I feel the hot breath of deadlines on my neck. Today I have to get files sent so that advance copies can be printed. It’s a bit of a rocky ride because I’m at the stage of production in which I swing wildly from “This is the best work I have ever done” to “What was I thinking? People are going to be so embarrassed for me and will whisper sadly about it behind my back.”

Still, I have to take the risk. Writing is in my blood. Writing always feels like coming back home. As a teenager I was writing prayers for our church’s worship services. I was also editing the transcriptions of my pastor’s sermons before they were printed for distribution. I have to come to understand that not every teenager was doing this.

But today I am glad to have a day that’s a bit more fluid. I was gone all weekend leading a women’s retreat for our church, a weekend full of laughter and tears and connecting. I have finally learned that the best thing I can do on such retreats is to offer a bit of wisdom and then get out of the way, letting them talk with each other about what I have said and what they have lived and where God may be in the midst of it.

Because every group in the state that can possibly meet wants to meet in March, this Friday I’ll travel to the state Baptist women in ministry meeting and then the following weekend staff a three-day Life, Loss and Healing workshop. The workshop grew out of the work of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and gives people a chance to do focused work grieving all kinds of losses. Through the years we have found that it helps to have me, the minister, on staff. People have questions about God’s place in their pain. And sometimes well meaning Christians have told them things that need to be questioned.  (Another flower for God’s garden? Really?) The fact that I have an M.Div. in my back pocket gives my words a bit more credibility in such matters than the other therapists on staff.

Recently I came across Marci Alboher’s book, One Person/ Multiple Careers: The original guide to the slash career, and suddenly my work made sense. I have never been content doing just one thing. I have never been able to stay on just one path. I have never known how to answer the question of, “What do you do?” Or at least, not a concise, just one job answer.

Not long ago there was another question I did not know how to answer. Someone asked me if I thought I’d ever go back into ministry.

I didn’t have an answer because I was not aware that I’d ever left.

Peggy Haymes is a writer/Licensed Professional Counselor/publisher/preacher and yes, minister, living in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where she is a member of Knollwood Baptist Church.

From Reacting to Relating: The Journey Continues by Wanda Kidd

Presented during the thirtieth anniversary celebration of Baptist Women in Ministry of North Carolina, March 16, 2013.

Wanda KiddIn its second decade (1993-2003), as Baptist Women in Ministry of North Carolina transitioned from reacting to relating, the questions persisted. We as women in ministry, particularly as Baptists, wanted to know: To whom do we want to relate? What is our message? Who is our hope?

In those years, the sacred stories of my sisters in ministry did not speak of a call that was gender or age specific. I always felt that our desire was to minister to anyone who needed the hope of the gospel. I didn’t know any women who wanted to cause an uproar or make people angry because of their calling. The stories I heard were about sisters compelled to respond to all the challenges and affirmations that we had been immersed in all of our lives

Years of singing, “Wherever He leads I’ll Go” and Take My Life and Let it Be” put a conviction in our hearts that we could not nor did we want to ignore.  Every time I heard the text read in which Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the labors are few,” I thought that his call was to as many as would respond. Wouldn’t it make sense that as many of us who were willing to follow should be doing ministry? It never made sense to me that we would prohibit half of the population when there was so much work to do. But ten years into this organization’s existence, the lines seemed to have been drawn tighter, and people were being called in greater numbers and at great costs to make choices about allegiances. People were asked to sign the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message or be fired. While more women were being ordained and our new seminaries were open to educating women for ministry, the reality in 1993 was that ministry opportunities were still very limited for us.

And ministry opportunities that were available were hard. Several years ago I had a conversation with one of our BWIM founding mothers who had left a highly publicized senior pastorate. She said that she came to town with years of ideas that she wanted to share with the congregation that had courageously called her. She soon realized, however, with deep sadness, that it had taken all of the creative energy and passion the church had to call a woman amidst a great media frenzy and the public backlash, and they had nothing left to give. They had no energy to engage in her ideas, and she eventually had to walk away from that ministry opportunity.

Relating to those who we thought were our allies can be very disappointing and very painful.

But ever hopeful, those of us connected to BWIM of North Carolina continued to relate with truth, and courage and sometimes humor as we continue this journey.

I remember an experience I had years ago when I was preaching for a youth event at Camp Caraway. I was hustling down that back hall that had small couch in a dark alcove. Out of the corner of my eye I saw that someone was sitting on the couch, and I heard a man mutter under his breath, “I ain’t ever sat under no women preacher before.” I am pretty sure he was not trying to start a conversation with me, but the temptation was too great to resist. I stopped and turned to him and said, “I had just planned to speak the gospel to you, but I guess if you need me to sit on you I can.” He was clearly not expecting me to respond and most likely not open to further conversation, so I walked on. After the service, he came up to me, and I shook the hand that extended. Sometimes you can relate with very few words. Change is hard. Change is never fast enough for some. It is never slow enough for others.

The barriers that both men and women used to exclude and demonize women called to ministry always seemed fear-based to me. I could often feel the fear and pain people experienced as they thought about the price they would pay for letting go of their position and power. They often came across as harsh or patronizing or even prejudice, but if Carlyle Marney, the twentieth-century Baptist prophet is right, those who were driven by fear are the poorer for their shortsightedness. Marney wrote, “Prejudice is a vicious kind of mental slant; pushed up out of your culture that makes up your mind for you before you think.  It is an evil kind of mental blind spot that shuts from your view the facts in a given situation. It is a tyrannous mental fence that holds you from friendships you need and confines you to your backyard. It may be racial, religious, sectional, economic or social. It is always personal anywhere it happens to you and it cuts across justice, perverts truth, subsists on lies and worse: it twists and waste personality.”*

There is a high cost and a great risk in relating to others, especially those who do not share our understanding of the gospel, but there is no ministry without relationship regardless of the risk.  There are those who will never understand that God calls women to ministry, but for some of us, there are those moments when a young women we have known since she was in our GA group, calls and asks for a reference as she applies to seminary. Then she says, “You were the first woman that I ever saw as a minister. Thank you for being the person who showed me that there was another way. As we serve, we have such glimpses of the hope of the gospel in the lives of those to whom we relate.

At times when I felt excluded, my mom quoted to me from her favorite poem. The poem was Outwitted by Edgar Markham.

   He drew a circle that shut me out,
   Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout,
   But Love and I had the wit to win:
   We drew a circle that took him in
 

BWIM of North Carolina, we serve a Savior of bold hope for such a time as this.

Wanda Kidd is the college ministry coordinator for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina.

 

*Carlyle Marney, Faith in Conflict (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1957), 87.

Humming a Tune by Tammy Abee Blom

I have a song stuck in my head. Actually, it’s a refrain from a song but it circles and circles through my brain.

“I will arise and go to Jesus; he will embrace me with his arms.”

hands of god and adamAfter about a hundred revolutions, the refrain sparked an image. The recent conclave meeting in Rome must have prompted the image, because I was reminded of Michelangelo’s paintings in the Sistine Chapel. One of the most famous frescoes depicts God stretching a hand toward Adam and Adam likewise stretching a hand toward God. The two almost brush fingertips.

So, as I have carpooled kids, cooked dinner, and prepared my lesson plan for Sunday school, I have been humming, “I will arise and go to Jesus,” while envisioning the two hands reaching for each other.

In seminary, one of my professors said, “The image of God reaching for you while you reach for God” epitomizes the Christian journey. Always, God extends the hand of mercy and grace to us. Always, it is our role to reach for God. The moments of joy are when the hands connect.

The refrain in my head is from Come, Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy. Written by Joseph Hart, a preacher and writer in the mid 1750s in London, he juxtaposed the Christian’s reticence to go to Jesus, particularly holding off “till you’re better” with the gracious invitation of always being welcomed in Jesus’ arms. So having tarried long enough, his refrain echoes that of the prodigal son, “I am going to get up and go home. I will arise and go to Jesus.”

Lent feels like a journey home. While Jesus is traveling to Jerusalem, we are walking the dark road to hope. Some days I feel like I am standing on a stool on my tiptoes with fingers stretched out hoping to brush the hand of the divine. Being home feels a lot like being at peace with God.

While visualizing Michelangelo’s hands reaching for each other, I have hummed the refrain, “I will arise and go to Jesus.” I have thought about why and when I forget to stretch out my hand to God. I have questioned why I think God may have forgotten to reach for me. And I have offered thanks for a writer and an artist, Hart and Michelangelo, who persevered in imaging how humanity strives for God and likewise God strives for us. I am thankful for their witness as I walk the Lenten journey.

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.

 

Your Daughters Will Prophesy . . . and Already Are: Our Celebration of Martha Stearns Marshall by Kristy Bay

Kristy Bay 1I sat at a table in the gathering room of our church, Milledge Avenue Baptist Church in Athens, Georgia, patiently waiting for my young  ten-year-old friend to search through her little purse for change. She dropped a crumpled wad of money plus some coins onto the table and asked, “Is this enough to buy this book?” I smiled at her as her dad joined the conversation and added a few more bills to the stack.

“Why yes, yes it is!” I told her.

“I’m so glad,” she said. “I just really want this book, because I want the pastor-lady to sign it.” She leaned in closer to me, and with a great big smile stretched across her face, she said, “Also, Ms. Kristy, I want you to know that I am going to be a preacher someday.”

I looked into her sparkling eyes and said, “Yep. And I just bet that you’re going to be a really good one, too.” And with that, I handed her her very own copy of Karen Massey’s book And Your Daughters Shall Prophesy: Sermons by Women in Baptist Life.

Massey Your DaughtesrOn Sunday February 10, Milledge Avenue celebrated Martha Stearns Marshall Day of Preaching. It was a beautiful time of celebrating women in ministry. We were blessed by inspiring words from Dr. Massey. We also presented the congregation with a plaque that has a list of all the women who have preached at Milledge in honor of Martha Stearns Marshall from 2008 until this year–almost all of them have served on staff as ministers here. But we went beyond celebrating the voices of women in the pulpit, we also honored women who had broken barriers in other ministerial capacities.

We celebrated our first three women who were ordained by Milledge Avenue as deacons back in 1986. We celebrated our first ever female deacon chair. And we celebrated the first woman in our congregation to become a mother while serving as deacon chair.

And why did we do this? Because Milledge Avenue Baptist Church has a long history of recognizing that God can speak through a variety of people—regardless of societally-imposed boundaries. God has spoken here at Milledge Avenue through the voices of many women, and this year’s Martha Stearns Marshall Sunday was a beautiful reminder that what God sets in motion, we would be wise to follow.

Milledge Avenue MSM DAyAs Dr. Massey so poignantly reminded us in her sermon, our daughters shall prophesy, and in fact—they already are. May we never underestimate the significance of showing our little girls that they can dream big and be whatever God calls them to be—doctor, teacher, lawyer, or preacher. Who knows, one of the little girls sitting in our pews may be a future pastor. And do you know what? That little girl who told me that morning in the gathering room that she was going to be a preacher . . . I believe with my whole heart that she will be a great one.

Kristy Bay is associate pastor of youth and education, Milledge Avenue Baptist Church, Athens, Georgia.

Called to Preach by Tammy Abee Blom

Tammy Abee Blom preachingI had never preached. On a couple of occasions, I had shared my testimony at the Sunday night church service, but I had never preached. Matter of fact, other than in my seminary’s chapel service, I had never heard a woman preach.  So there I stood in front of a group of fellow seminarians with a sermon manuscript in my hand and no prior preaching experience. Speaking in a soft voice with my eyes glued to the manuscript, hesitantly, I started reading. Without warning, from the back row, the preceptor called, “Miss Abee, please assume the authority of the pulpit.” That got my head up. Assume the authority? I had no idea what he meant, but I started again. Soon the voice called, “Miss Abee, please assume the authority of the pulpit.” With confidence I didn’t feel, I read the last page of my sermon. After class, my preceptor offered this instruction, “Miss Abee, you have been called to ministry. God has given you the responsibility to say what you know about God. When you step into the pulpit, you are to embrace your calling and say what you know. That is your responsibility as a preacher.”

The preceptor changed my understanding of preaching in that short explanation. Prior to that moment, I thought preaching revolved around being loud, authoritative, and in charge.  Senior pastors were those who preached, and all the senior pastors I knew were middle-aged white men with doctorates. I was a twenty-something-year-old female in her second year of seminary. Could I preach? Turns out the question was not “Could I?” but “Why was I not claiming my role as preacher?”

The preceptor did not question my gender or my lack of preaching experience.   He questioned why I did not take the task seriously and offer my voice to God. Thank goodness he only had to tell me once. I am ever so grateful for his instruction as I learned the art of preaching. At each class meeting, he sat in the back row so we had to project our voices. Always he questioned our presence and presentation. But after that one time, he did not have to question my intention to preach faithfully to my calling.

Learning to preach takes many repetitions because you have to find your voice and style for the sermon to be authentic. And preaching requires vulnerability. You have to tell what you know about God both relationally and academically. But preaching does not require one to be of a certain gender, age, or status. Preaching is serious business because it reflects our sincere desire to live out our calling to God.  I will always be thankful for my preceptor who challenged me to assume the authority of the pulpit.

I will always be thankful for the churches who asked women to preach for Martha Stearns Marshall Month of Preaching. Because these churches asked women to assume the authority of the pulpit, women preachers received an opportunity to develop and hone their preaching voices. And more people saw a woman proclaim the Word of God, so there are fewer stories of “I’ve never heard a woman preach before.” I am thankful for these congregations who honor the call of women and challenge women to speak faithfully of their calling.

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.