THIS IS WHAT A MINISTER LOOKS LIKE: Angela Reed

Each Friday, Baptist Women in Ministry introduces a remarkable woman minister, and today, we are pleased to introduce Angela Reed.

Angela, tell us about where and how your are currently serving in ministry and where you have served in the past.
 
My journey into vocational ministry began in the mid-1990s when I was a passionate, but inexperienced twenty-three-year old. I became the assistant pastor of a Mennonite Church in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Three years later, my husband and I switched places. He accepted a call to full-time ministry, and I became a minister’s spouse and active volunteer. Over the next six years, we had two children, and I completed my M.Div. degree. Along the way, I trained in spiritual direction and began to serve as a director in my congregation and in the community. These years of ministry were very rich for us, but my love for learning could not easily be quenched. I went on to PhD. studies in Practical Theology (Christian Education and Formation) at Princeton Seminary, completing the program in 2010. With the ink still drying on my diploma, I hopped in the car with my family, and we made the trek to Waco, Texas, where I joined the faculty of Baylor University’s Truett Seminary. I direct the seminary’s spiritual formation program and teach practical ministry courses in formation and discipleship.
 
What do you love best about your current ministry?
 
Frankly, I could not have written a better job description for myself than the one handed to me five years ago. While I had a wonderful experience in pastoral ministry, I am most at home guiding a classroom of future ministers in discussion on topics like the process of Christian transformation, spiritual companionship in ministry, formational practices for congregations, and historic traditions of Christian spirituality. I love engaging with students who ask great questions and share ideas and life experiences that enlighten my own understanding. What I love just as well is the one-with-one conversations with students who allow me to catch a glimpse of their personal relationships with God. I love to listen and ask questions as they describe the joys and challenges they encounter in everyday life.
 
A third thing I love (and occasionally hate!) is the work of research and writing. The perfectionist in me wants every idea and word to be perfect, but when I am most in touch with who I am as God’s child, I genuinely enjoy writing books for ministers, imagining that they are sitting across the desk from me, joining me in conversation about some aspect of ministry that I am attempting to address theologically. One other aspect of my work that I appreciate deeply is its flexibility and seasonal nature. There are intense moments during the semester when I pour myself into people and projects, and then times in between semesters when I can read, reflect, write, and spend more time in prayer. The schedule helps to keep me balanced so that I avoid burning out. It also allows me the flexibility to care for my family throughout the year and to work at home during much of the summer when my children (ages eleven and thirteen) are out of school. I am truly grateful for the ebb and flow of academic life.
 
Who has inspired you and helped you along the way in ministry?
 
I thank God that this list is a long one, but I will name only a few key persons. I must begin with my mother who modeled for me the strength and grace of a woman with gifts for leadership who could teach, study, and care for a family while also being active in a congregation. Once upon a time, she suggested that I could become a doctor if I chose to. She meant one of the medical variety, and we shared a good laugh over this memory when I graduated with a doctorate in Theology. Both of my parents supported my sense of call to ministry and encouraged me in my studies even when some other family and congregational members had doubts. Somehow they managed to shield me from those doubts, especially in my early twenties, and I am grateful for this today.

My husband is another who has helped me, often sensing the calling before I did myself. He has willingly accompanied me from place to place as I completed my education and settled into a faculty position. Other inspiration came from two female college professors who taught courses in practical theology and were gifted ministers. As I got to know them, I began to dream of the possibilities.

I have also had four different spiritual directors in the last fifteen years whom I have met with regularly. Their passion for God and knowledge of the spiritual journey has been an inspiration. In many cases, I would enter into a spiritual direction session feeling weighed down by responsibilities and decisions, and leave with peace, believing that God would help me to take another step or grow in some aspect of my character. Finally, I must mention my seminary colleagues who are a regular inspiration to me. My personality leans toward the extroverted side, and the academic life can sometimes feel solitary. The passion of my colleagues for their areas of study, the knowledge they share with me, and their energy for the work urge me on when I grow weary or begin to drag my feet. Finding a community of colleagues that provide mutual support has been absolutely essential for my development as a minister.
 
What advice would you give to a teenage girl who is sensing a call to ministry?
 
In my late teens, I imagined myself as a missionary or perhaps the spouse of a minister. These seemed to be the primary ministry leadership options available to women in my home community. When I went to college, I discovered that there were other options. If I were offering advice to a teenage girl interested in ministry, I would say this: Explore your sense of call, even if it means beginning to look beyond your immediate context and any limitations you find there. If you enlarge your social circles, you may find people who can understand and appreciate what interests you and give you opportunities to study and serve that help you to clarify the call. Don’t be afraid to approach women whose work you find compelling and ask them about their journeys into ministry. Relationships like these can be a life-line in challenging times. Many of us further along in the calling process rejoice at the opportunity to be an advocate.

Along the way, continue to attend to your own spiritual growth and character formation. Christian maturity is the most important aspect of fitness for ministry. Natural gifts and practical skills are important, but they fall flat if the character within is not on the way to becoming formed in the image of Christ. And keep in mind that you are loved by God for who you are, not what you do. (Yes, I teach Christian formation, and my priorities are coming through!) May God bless you on this journey.

To Robe, or not to Robe? That is the Question! by C. Lynn Brinkley

“Aaron and his sons shall wear them when they go into the tent of meeting, or when they come near the altar to minister in the holy place; or they will bring guilt on themselves and die.” (Exodus 28:43, NRSV)

In last month’s blog titled, “Sunday Best, I Guess,” I concluded by stating that I would further the discussion on proper attire for worship by addressing clerical attire in my next month’s blog. As I was drafting this month’s blog, I noticed recent Facebook chatter about wearing doctoral robes in the pulpit. The discussion centered on whether it is appropriate for a person to wear a doctoral robe if the person has not received an earned doctorate degree.

My thoughts are this, why even wear a doctoral robe during worship to begin with unless the service calls for it. Wearing academic regalia for perhaps a special worship service to celebrate recent graduates would be deemed decent and in order in some traditions. But for those to whom the robe was “earned not given” (King LeBron James version), there is no need to flaunt one’s academic achievement in the house of the Lord. It is God who deserves the glory, not the preacher.

I am proud of my academic achievements and so are the persons in my church, but I don’t feel the need to elevate myself above them by showing off three chevrons on my sleeves. The purpose of the robe is to cover the preacher and promote the God-ordained office or calling of the preacher. Unless the service calls for wearing regalia, I would say—NOT!

If you do not have an EARNED doctorate or honorary doctorate degree (Earned meaning you put in the time, money and energy to do thorough research, you spent many late nights, personal sacrifices, constant prayers, and time IN the academic setting (not on the internet), from a respectable and accredited institution, where you were  “not given” your doctorate degree in less than three years time, then to wear or not to wear a doctoral robe I would say—NOT!

As a woman who has frequent opportunities to stand behind the sacred desk, I do, however, support wearing clergy attire. First, I find that a clerical robe takes the focus off what I am wearing. Given all the horror stories I’ve heard about criticism of skirt lengths, open-toed shoes, and neck-line, a pulpit robe has become my great deliverer (thanks, J. Dan Day!). Second, certain worship services just demand the choir and clergy adorn themselves in worship attire. A guest preacher would want to inquire from the host church the context of the worship service and whether wearing a robe, business casual, or Sunday best attire is most appropriate.

When priestly garments were worn in Old Testament times, these garments were highly symbolic and illustrated that spiritual leaders were anointed and set apart from others to do the work of God. “To Robe or Not to Robe” was not an option because it was mandatory for the priest to adhere to the dress code. Exodus 28:43 says, Aaron and his sons shall wear them when they go into the tent of meeting, or when they come near the altar to minister in the holy place; or they will bring guilt on themselves and die. (Exodus 28:43, NRSV).  A High and Holy worship service would call for the preacher to wear a robe, but it also depends on the faith tradition.

At the end of the day, whether you decide to robe or not to robe, be mindful that your priestly garments have biblical significance and symbolize that you have been set apart to serve God. “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Col 3:17)

C. Lynn Brinkley serves as the director of student services and alumni relations at Campbell University Divinity School in Buies Creek, North Carolina. Lynn is also an adjunct professor at Campbell and an ordained minister at First Baptist Church in Clinton. For more information about proper attire in the pulpit, check out Lynn’s new book: Manners & Money: A Manual on Preaching Etiquette.

 

 

Family is the Strangest Thing by Abbie Huff

Family is the strangest thing. There are, of course, the good parts of family, like how your parents have loved you through the tough times, how your siblings really get you (and your humor), how you make each other laugh until you cry, or (if you’re a parent) the overwhelming power of your love for your kids. But, there are also less good parts.

Family reunions have always been a big part of my extended families. Both sides have made it a point to have a big get-together every year, a tradition that goes back for as long as I can remember. A few years ago there were debates about whether or not the family reunion should in fact be called a “family reunion.” One relative complained that the term itself was like a guilt-trip to which she reluctantly responded by agreeing to come. My mom and I discussed what else it could be called. Family gathering? Crazy convention? We even wondered whether or not we should call it a “family intervention.” Maybe some folks would show up just to see who needed an intervention.

Interesting family dynamics is one of the reasons why I love reading through parts of the Old Testament. I find siblings betraying each other over inheritance and fighting over parental affection and parents planning out the lives and futures of their children, and then there are all the feuds, rejections, and rebellions. When you look at families in the Old Testament and compare them to yours, you realize that not much has changed in two to three thousand years. And you might find that your family isn’t so bad! Strange as it seems, I find this unchanging nature of family a comfort. Perhaps because of communications technology, longer life expectancy, or our understanding of psychology and family dynamics has grown deeper, we wonder if we should be better at this family thing than we are? But we’re not, are we?

Our families have known us at our worst, have seen our pain and our potential.They know just what to say or do to hurt us the most. It is our families with whom we have spent the most time, interacted with the most, and therefore, our families have conditioned our behavior the most. The influence of our families can be a strength, but at times we hate seeing our actions mirror the worst of our parents or siblings. Our family sometimes hold our best hopes and expectations, but other times our families let us down and leave us brokenhearted.

Our families are strange and dysfunctional at times, and staying in relationship with them is risky. But whether it is our family in Christ or the ones we were born into, the hardest, yet most vital parts of the Christian call is to keep loving them, keep showing up, and keep calling them family.

Abbie Huff lives in Nyack, New York and is building faith community outside the walls of the church.  She loves a good novel, craft beer, and she’s never met a stranger.  For more reflections, follow her blog.

 

Tuesday Prayer from Baptist Women in Ministry

Renew your church, Lord,

your people in this land.

Save us from cheap words

and self-deception in your service

In the power of your Spirit

transform us,

and shape us

by your cross.

Amen.

John de Gruchy

Psalm 60: If You Are Not Going, I Am Not Going

“Is it not you, God, you who have now rejected us and no longer go out with our armies? Give us aid against the enemy, for human help is worthless. With God we will gain the victory, and he will trample down our enemies.”–Psalm 60:10-12

My adorable five-year-old niece, Jaselle, is very social. She loves hanging out with her cousins and making new friends on the playground. One Saturday in April, Jaselle was invited to a playdate at a nearby pool, so she excitedly kissed her mom and ran out the door. A few hours later Jaselle returned home, visually upset. Arms folded, she issued this declaration, “Mommy, if you are not going, I am not going.”

We later discovered that Jaselle had fallen into the pool and swallowed some water. Although, she was in good hands, they were not her mother’s hands. Jaselle had learned a valuable lesson that many Bible heroes had learned thousands of years before. If the Father was not going, they were not going either.

Moses, Gideon, and David were mighty warriors who understood their fragility without the presence of their Heavenly Father. Moses declared, in Exodus 33:15, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us. To quote the words of a five-year-old girl, Moses was saying, “Father, if you are not going, we are not going.”

Paraphrasing Gideon’s words to God in Judges 6:36-40: “I need to know that you are with me, therefore place dew on this fleece while leaving the ground dry.” When the dew showed up, Gideon said, “Don’t be angry God but I want to make absolutely sure you are with me. Can you reverse the request letting only the fleece remain dry but covering the ground with dew?” In a nutshell, Gideon was saying, “Father, I need to be sure that you are going, because if you are not going, I am not going.”

David, a man after God’s own heart, said, “Is it not you, God, who . . . no longer go out with our armies? Give us aid, for human help is worthless. With God we will gain the victory.” Psalm 60:10-12 (NIV)

Can you hear Jaselle’s declaration in David’s words? Father, all the human help is worthless, if you are not with us. Our victory is in you. Therefore, if you are not going, we are not going.

Understanding the Lord’s presence in your life is essential. The Lord’s presence is everything, for the Lord is your strength.

Lord, if you are not going, I will not go.

Angela Fields is a writer and an ordained minister. She is the author of I’m Perfectly Different, a book for children. Angela is a graduate of the James and Carolyn McAfee School of Theology in Atlanta, Georgia and loves seafood, shopping, and a great pair of shoes.

THIS IS WHAT A MINISTER LOOKS LIKE: Yana Pagan

Every Friday, Baptist Women in Ministry introduces an amazing Baptist woman minister, and today, we are so pleased to introduce Yana Pagan.

Yana, tell us about where and how are you currently serving in ministry?

I recently ran into a big brother in ministry and told him; “I have no pulpit, I go where God calls and it feels great!” I can honestly say I like my life as it is; while others see me as jobless. It is all a matter of perspective. This is not where I planned to be when I was ordained in 2008, and I sure did not like it at first. But I have found my voice, and I am not sure I had that seven years ago.

The how I serve is a bit more complicated. My ministry would not work for the one who wants a steady income.  Notice, I said wants not needs, because we sure do need two incomes, yet Angel (my husband of sixteen years who is a pastor) and I trust that God will provide. But there are always challenges.

I minister as God leads. I teach at Esperanza College. I am a preacher, teacher, blog writer, retreat facilitator, Bible study leader. I mentor women who feel they need encouragement or life coaching, I speak to groups on issues of justice, share my life testimony, and talk about how the church can be a source of change. I represent the American Baptist Home Mission Societies at various meetings, most recently at the New Baptist Covenant Summit, which is a movement I am excited about. I believe we all need to be dreaming  more for the Reign of God here on earth. There is more I do, but I think you get the idea. If I get a call, I pray and then I respond, so now you know why I say “I have no pulpit but if God calls I go.”  I guess, I am a traveling preacher!

What job, positions and experiences have shaped and prepared you for your present role?

I believe that all jobs were preparing me for this moment because God is so awesome and knows me so well. I would like to highlight my role as bookstore manager. That job trained me in so many ways, most especially to work with people. At the bookstore, I could not hide in the shadows like I so enjoyed doing. Interestingly, the job came about while I was in seminary, and God started slowly with me. At first I was an assistant and then I was named as manager. The first position prepared me for the second. Clinical Pastoral Education prepared me and taught me more than I can ever explain about ministry and helped me to find niche. The ministry of presence and the fact that I had to learn to first of all be comfortable in my own skin. Chaplaincy and later a residency truly shaped and prepared me for ministry.

Who has inspired you along the way as you have lived out your calling?

I thank God that I have been blessed with a church family and friends that inspired me. Together their voices encouraged me live out my calling. I thank God for Rev. Rafael Martell, with whom I still have a relationship, thank God. Rev. Martell taught me to rely solely on my relationship with God and let my relationship with others confirm what God is saying because God speaks directly to me.

So many  women and men have come into my life for a season, or they have been midwives and helped me birth something new, but every person has had their role. My first church taught me so much about my relationship with Christ and showed me how to lean heavily on Christ to live out my call. And, so honestly this question has been hard because I want to be honest about how I feel about this and what I share as I do mentoring.

My experience is that at the start of something new there are key people who are crucial. They have very special places in my heart, and sometimes they come back into my life to help me live out another part of the calling. Sometimes someone comes into my life for just a season and then leaves because their role was just to help us birth something new. I have found that they are not meant to be part of my daily life, and I cannot force them to do that. For their purpose is fulfilled in their appointed season, and we must make room for what God has next. And we must always be discerning and aware that the family of God is big. There are also ones we will never meet who encourage us daily to live our calling like Debroah, Ruth, Joseph, Esther, Jesus, Mary Magdelena, or authors like Joni Erickson Tada, Renita Weems. but we do not need to meet all of our heroes.

What advice would you give to a teenage girl who is sensing a call to ministry?

I would say to try to volunteer in something you know you are interested in; feeding the poor, after-school programs, or prison ministry. Maybe you have a passion to work with elderly, or you can help someone from your church the same with children. I volunteered in my church, and because of the experiences I had there, I was not afraid of hospitals. When you volunteer, recruit a friend! Nothing is better than going in two’s, and having a friend eases the fear a bit. Try something new together!

But if you are in the reflective stage of life, try to be still. Then trust yourself, but do not be afraid to ask people how did they got started in the field in which you are interested. I know it is scary to ask someone to share their story, but people are willing to share, if you are willing to listen. Finally, remember God calls us out the places we are passionate about . . .  it just takes us awhile to figure it out so be good to yourself.

 

DEAR ADDIE: The Wedding Bells Blues

Dear Addie,

My divorce was finalized a month ago. My church members took the separation well, and they have been supportive throughout this whole painful process. One of my greatest struggles as a newly divorced minister has been what to do about weddings. I am scheduled to officiate at two weddings in the next few months, and every time I think about standing before a congregation and blessing a marriage, I feel so sad and a little sick. I worry that I might break down and cry. Do you think it would be wrong for me to ask these two couples to find another minister?

The Wedding Bell Blues

 

Dear T.W.B.B.,

I am deeply sorry for your loss. Those words may seem strange, but you are grieving the loss of your marriage. While the support of your congregation has undergirded you thus far in this painful process, you are understandably experiencing trepidation as you imagine what it will feel like to stand before them in that particular context. Just as a pastor who has recently lost a loved one is aware that the first few funerals she conducts will trigger fresh waves of grief, you know that officiating these weddings will evoke deep emotions for you.

Should you ask these two couples to find another minister? Only you can answer that question. The proximity of these weddings to your recent divorce has escalated your anxiety. You don’t want to become a distraction at an event where the bride and groom should be the center of attention. But declining to officiate may be taking the easy way out–allowing you to postpone the painful but necessary interior work that will lead you to a healthier place, a place where you can rejoice as a couple takes their wedding vows, even as you mourn the loss of your own marriage.

Have you been seeing a pastoral counselor during the period leading to the dissolution of your marriage? You need a non-anxious presence outside of your church family who can help you to process your feelings in a safe space. You can model good self-care for your congregation by getting the help that you need to wrestle with your pain and grief.

May God grant you peace and courage for the living of these days.
Addie

Working and Playing for God by Sara Robb

For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a violinist. I’m not sure what first sparked that desire, but I know it’s been with me for a long time.

Growing up on the mission field meant that violin was not really an option for me, but piano was. For eighteen years, I studied piano and grew to love it, but the violin was always there calling to me and drawing me in with a beautiful deep resonance that spoke to my heart.

The year our family moved from Brazil to the States, my parents gave me my very own violin for Christmas (and birthday). Because it was given out of love and my parents’ limited funds, I’ll play on it forever.

Over the years, my violin study and practice went by the wayside for different reasons, but this Christmas I gifted myself with a new violin bow and a determination to not let my love of music go uncared for.

My new bow is so beautiful. It’s made of Pernambuco wood (which, fittingly, comes from Brazil), and the stain on the bow matches the stain on my violin perfectly.

Every time I rosin up my bow and tune my strings before going out to visit one of our church members, every time I’m asked to play in worship, and every time I block time off to practice on lazy Saturdays, I am thankful. I’m thankful for self- sacrificing parents who have me the gift of strings. I’m thankful for educators who are committed to arts education at all stages of life. I’m thankful for a God who speaks to me through music, helping me to find balance in work and play; teaching me to use both as worship of God.

Sara Robb is associate pastor of ministry with aging at Scott Boulevard Baptist Church, Decatur, Georgia. She blogs regularly at sarainrealife.

Tuesday Prayer from Baptist Women in Ministry

God of grace,

you sent the promised gift of the Holy Spirit

upon the apostles and the women,

upon Mary the mother of Jesus and upon his brothers.

Fill your church with power,

kindle flaming hearts within us,

and cause us to proclaim your mighty works in every tongue,

that all may call on you and be saved;

through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Laurence Hull Stookey

 

Psalm 55: Where is the Village? by Angela Fields

“Confuse them, Lord, and frustrate their plans, for I see violence and conflict in the city. Its walls are patrolled day and night against invaders, but the real danger is wickedness within the city. Everything is falling apart; threats and cheating are rampant in the streets.”–Psalm 55:9-11 (NLT)

There is a crisis in the community. Neighborhoods are falling apart, and children are ensnared in the crumbling.  The village is dying, and brother is turning against brother, friend against friend, neighbor against neighbor. The psalmist himself had lived through such devastation, and he wrote, “Fear and trembling overwhelm me, and I can’t stop shaking.” (Ps. 55:5)

One thing is clear; the brokenness within communities will only be healed by God’s people beseeching the throne of grace and recommitting themselves to the fallen societies. Recommitment should resemble what I call the Ministry of Standing, which is divided into four parts: to stand, to stand for, to stand with and to stand up for.

To stand simply means moving beyond the point of passive listening and deciding that watching a community die needlessly is something you can no longer do. Standing for means no longer waiting for someone else to act but making the decision to help rebuild the city. To stand with means taking up the cause of the people as a friend, companion, and fellow citizen. Finally, to stand up for means standing up for righteousness, justice, and truth in order to deter further oppression or suppression of a community.

Brenda Salter McNeil reminded us that Jesus restored our relationship to God as well as to humanity, and we are members of one family. To choose Christ means also choosing community. Upholding unity in the midst of diversity is one of the most powerful ways we reveal the reality of what Jesus accomplished on the cross.

As followers of Christ, when everything is falling apart in our communities, God calls us to stand, to stand for, to stand with, and to stand up for. In these past few months of chaos and unrest in our nation, God has been calling. Will we stand?

Angela Fields is a writer and an ordained minister. She is the author of I’m Perfectly Different, a book for children. Angela is a graduate of the James and Carolyn McAfee School of Theology in Atlanta, Georgia and loves seafood, shopping, and a great pair of shoes.