Psalm 126: Waiting for Songs of Joy by Lauren Brewer Bass

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dreamed.
Our mouths were filled with laughter,
our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us,
and we are filled with joy.
Restore our fortunes, Lord,
like streams in the Negev.
Those who sow with tears
will reap with songs of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
carrying sheaves with them. — Psalm 126

Yesterday was the first Sunday of Advent, and like always, it seems impossible that it’s time for Advent. Christmas is around the corner . . .  again. Yet, also like usual, I am comforted and excited to begin the Advent season.

Advent, the four weeks leading up to Christmas, is the time in the church calendar when, as Christians, we sit in anticipation. We anticipate the celebration of Jesus coming to earth as a baby born in a stable, but we also wait in hope for the time that Jesus will come again and set all things right.

As shopping trips and social events stack up, Advent reminds us to sit. The holiday season is the busiest time of year for most of us, but instead of hurry up, Advent asks us to wait. Advent gives us the space to look through the veneer of Christmas “cheer” and to see those who sow with tears. We can watch for those who go out weeping. We can sit around the table with those whose fortunes need restoring. Advent is a time for us to allow others in when we can sing nothing but sad songs.

Advent speaks to a reality that is deeper than pine trees, tacky sweaters, and an old man in a red suit. Advent speaks into our sorrows and the brokenness in the world. When the weight of injustice and sorrow in the world feels too heavy to bear, Advent creates space for the Spirit to whisper, “Yes . . . but . . . ”

Yes, people are sowing seeds of tears. But, they return with songs of joy. Yes, fortunes have been lost and the tides have been turned. But, they return with arms full. Yes, the world was lost, but God became one of us at Christmas. Yes, there is sorrow and brokenness in the world, but we have hope in knowing that Christ is coming again.

On this first Monday of the Advent season, I pray that this season we will cultivate the space to sit and wait, and I pray that we will find hope for the joy to come.

Lauren Brewer Bass and her husband David live and serve as Cooperative Baptist Fellowship field personnel in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.They blog regularly at www.davidandlaurenbass.com. Lauren is also the author of Five Hundred Miles: Reflections on Calling & Pilgrimage.

THIS IS WHAT A MINISTER LOOKS LIKE: Robin Sandbothe

Every Friday, Baptist Women in Ministry introduces an amazing minister, and today we are excited to introduce you to Robin Sandbothe.

Robin, tell us about your current ministry role.
I am the director of Seminary Relations at Central Seminary in Shawnee, Kansas (Kansas City metro area). I’ve worked at Central since 1997. For just over a year, I also have been the coordinating pastor of spiritual relationships at Englewood Baptist Church in Gladstone, Missouri (also Kansas City metro area). Englewood is the church which ordained me in 2001. I’ve returned there to serve with a team of two other pastors: Cynthia Saddler, coordinating pastor of congregational relationships, and Mark Buhlig, coordinating pastor of community relationships.

What have been some challenges along the way as you have lived out your calling?
The challenges began when I was in seminary. I served as the student liaison for the chapel planning team, and I was told in no uncertain terms by the president of the Southern Baptist seminary that I attended that we would not have any women preaching in chapel. It was my first inkling, well maybe not the first, but certainly the most blatant, that the road I had chosen, or that had chosen me, was not going to be an easy one.

Although I had hoped to find a full-time church position after graduation, I found those positions to be pretty much non-existent. I was fortunate to find the full-time position at Central, which allowed me to serve in a part-time associate pastor position. I was still certain that the situation was only temporary. I loved my position at Central, but I still saw myself as a lead pastor. It was not to be. Sadly, churches in this area of the country were more interested in hiring a male pastor close to retirement or a young couple just starting out before hiring a woman with congregational leadership experience, even a woman recommended by Central’s homiletics and New Testament professors.

To be fair, I might have been able to find a full-time congregational ministry position had I been willing to move to another area of the country,  but moving was another challenge. As a single woman, I found the idea of relocating where I would have no support system, to be a daunting prospect. I also was reluctant increase the distance from aging parents.

Who has inspired you along the way?
Other women in ministry are inspiring to me. I have been a part of ministry peer groups comprised of women, and their sheer tenacity, in the face of similar obstacles, has been impressive. Women who have been fighting the battle for many years, before I even understood what it meant to be called to ministry, inspire me, women like the Molly T. Marshall, president of Central Seminary. My professors in seminary also inspired me. The professors and other colleagues at Central continue to inspire me, as do my colleagues at Englewood.

I’m also inspired by authors such as Marjorie Thompson, Phyllis Tickle, Barbara Brown Taylor, Diana Butler Bass, Marcus Borg, and Richard Rohr.

How do you keep yourself healthy–physically and spiritually?
I wish I could say that I exercise regularly, eat only healthy food, and have a rich daily time of meditation. Frankly, all of those are hit or miss. I tend to overcommit and eat way too much sugar, and the only decent exercise I get is working in the garden on occasion, and, fortunately, I live on a lower level of a house and have to take the stairs when I come and go!

I do appreciate spiritual practices of labyrinth walking, lectio divina, coloring mandalas, and centering prayer. Planning worship and singing in choir are also important to my spiritual life. I am currently completing a certificate in spiritual formation with Columbia Theological Seminary, which is enhancing my spiritual journey and I believe is also helping me to lead others in their spiritual journeys.

Sacred Ordinary Parents by Erin Robinson Hall

I was explaining my new obsession, the Sacred Ordinary Days planner, to my husband. I tried to sell him on why we both needed one immediately. “It’s like if the Erin Condren planner went to seminary! It has space to plan, calendar stuff, reminders for all those practices. We need it!”

He bought it. But he first reminded me that we need no better reminder that we live in the “sacred ordinary” than to look over at our preachers’ kid. Our three year old was sitting on the floor of the pastor’s office, making a game out of stacking and then knocking down a bunch of votive candles from a recent worship service. The boundaries between the sacred and the ordinary blur pretty often for ministers’ children.

I would love to say that our schedule and practices chart as neatly as the pages of this beautiful planner would suggest. Most of the time, however, the lines on a page cannot corral the weird and wonderful rhythm of ministry.

I have been a preacher’s kid and we are raising a preachers’ kid. He will know that we make mistakes. He will know that we laugh, often. He will know that his parents call each other out. I noticed, recently, that my Pinterest-inspired Fall decor of candy corn jars were growing smaller each day. Our oh-so-holy conversation went something like this:

Me: “Would you please stop eating all of the Fall decorations?”
Husband: “You know your decorations are food, right?”
Me: “Pretend it’s like the pretty displays on the communion table at church.”
Husband: “Those aren’t made of candy corn.”

Our son will know that the man who sees through symbol and metaphor from the pulpit is the same guy who argues that it’s just a bowl of candy. The woman who can lead a group through a creative prayer experience on Wednesday night gets impatient with her child’s bedtime prayers. The person who offers sermons, sunday school lessons and conversation all Sunday morning has no words left by afternoon. The person who teaches Jesus’ forgiveness truly struggles to forgive church members for what they said.

Our ordinary happens in the grand privilege of holding hands beside deathbeds and stepping into baptismal waters. Our sacred comes in the grace of backyard swings and bath time giggles. The lines blur.

In those blurred lines, I wonder if words like balance and boundaries would add more to our days. Yet, I think the beauty of being a family that lives out ministry is that balance is not the point. Intentionality is what shapes our days. Our intention is to offer grace to each other and trust the good news we proclaim. Our intention is to answer phone calls at night that bring holy interruptions and hit the pause button when the most important thing is playing Legos or making dinner. We are far from perfect. We have to be the blurred-line people we are: the priest, the penitent and the parent all at the same time.

If the person we show to our child is anything less than the snarky, anxious, flawed follower of Christ that we really are, we might miss the most beautiful lesson a minister can offer their own child: that God calls regular people.

As a preacher’s kid, I saw that the man who was impatient with my teenage attitude still got to stand and proclaim God’s grace. I saw the man who was hurt in the crossfire of church conflict be able to forgive, move forward and serve the body of Christ. My son will see that the person who stood fussing about small things in the kitchen that morning still gets to stand and pronounce a benediction to the people. My son will see the real mom and dad paying bills, rushing around, fussing, and worrying. He will know that those ordinary people can be called to the holy moments of ministry.

Our son will know that the sacred and ordinary come to life in the lives of real people.

Erin Robinson Hall holds a Master of Divinity degree from Candler Theological Seminary, Atlanta, Georgia. She has served as minister of congregational life at Heritage Baptist Fellowship in Canton, Georgia, and for nine years taught in the public school systems of North Carolina, Texas, and Georgia. Erin is currently working on a Doctor of Ministry degree in Christian Education at Columbia Theological Seminary in Atlanta. Erin blogs at www.erinrobinsonhall.com. She lives in Macon, Georgia, with her husband, Jake, and their two-year-old son, Logan.

My Thanksgiving Church by Pam Durso

I am always grateful for the many churches that have nurtured my faith, affirmed my calling, and supported my work. But in this season of Thanksgiving, I am most grateful for one church: Beulah Baptist Church in Devereux, Georgia.

Beulah is a pretty remarkable church. In 2016, the congregation will celebrate its 225th anniversary! The longevity of the church and its continued commitment to gathering for worship is cause for much celebration. AND the vision and the generosity of Beulah is also reason to celebrate.

Beulah is a small, rural church. Their building is not very big. There are no Sunday School rooms, no fellowship hall, no air conditioner. They have only a sanctuary, one that is beautiful in its simplicity.  A few years ago church members did raise money and add running water, and they built a separate bathroom facility, which they call the “outhouse.” Beulah is also small in number. There are a few dozen people who attend, and they meet only twice a month.

For those who think that church size matters and that big buildings and large attendance are the keys to “successful” church life, Beulah would certainly be overlooked or ignored. But as a member of a small church myself, let me tell you that God does great work in and through the smallest of congregation, and God is doing great work through Beulah.

About fifteen years ago, the congregation realized that the church’s financial needs were few, and they looked at their bank account and saw that they had money “just sitting in the bank.” After some discussion, the congregation decided that their money was God’s money and that “just sitting in the bank” money should be sent back into the world. The next Sunday church members received blank ballots and were asked to write down missions and ministries that they wanted to support. They then voted on which missions and ministries to send money to, AND they decided that every six months they would repeat this process.

Over the past fifteen years, Beulah has helped individuals in need, paying rent and power bills, helping with medical expenses, and providing food. Beulah has sent money to Helping Hands of Hancock County, Maranatha Homeless Shelter, the S.A.F.E and domestic violence programs, Samaritan Ministry, Meals on Wheels, Appalachian missionaries, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, and yes, Baptist Women in Ministry!  In that fifteen years, the church has sent out more than $300,000.00 to ministries and to people in need. Yes, you read that right. This small, rural church has sent out $300,000.00 to bless the world, to help with God’s work in their community and around the globe. This small church has sent out this huge amount, while only spending $36,000.00 on their own needs.

Generosity, big-hearted, selfless generosity seems to be a rarity in this world, but Beulah Baptist Church, more than any other church I know, lives out the spirit of Christian generosity in ways that inspire me to give, to share, to sent out what I have to bless God’s world.

This Thanksgiving season, I am thankful, so very thankful for the good gift that is Beulah Baptist Church and for their pastor, Genie Hargrove! Blessings on you, our friends, as you prepare to celebrate 225 years as a community of faith!

Psalm 121: The Lord Watches Over Your Coming and Going

“The Lord will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore. (Psalm 121:7-8)”

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, as I write these devotionals I am preparing to move to Cambodia. My husband, David, and I will be serving as field personnel (missionaries) with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. Just over a year ago we accepted positions to serve alongside and support the Cambodia Baptist Union as they transition their church planting movement from new and dynamic to deep and sustainable.

This last year will go down as an entire year of transitioning from one place to another. There was coming, and there was going—and it felt like it would last “forevermore.” There were 4 (?) training trips taking us back and forth from Denver, Colorado to Decatur, Georgia. In January, we left straight from work and traveled almost 24 hours to Phnom Penh, Cambodia to see the place we had agreed to live and serve in. We traveled home to Texas three times to see family, gather partners for our ministry, and be commissioned. We came and we went and we tried to soak up life in between and in the midst of it all.

As our departure got closer, we began the true going process—including everything from the tedious task of dealing with our possessions to the painful process of parting with a community we love. We are now, as I write this, preparing for the coming—starting out fresh in a new place, learning a new language, culture and city and praying new community develops around us there. We’ve had a year of this coming, going and the awkward place right in the middle. This middle place—where you dig around in your suitcases but never unpack, where you are sending resumes out into the void, or where you are looking at a house that has grown empty, wondering what is next—can be terrifying, numbing, or some strange combination of both.

Meditating on Psalm 121 this month, sometimes called the Traveler’s Psalm, has been reassuring for me. The psalmist tells us that God watches over the coming and the going, and the implication is that there should not be fear in either one. Yet both the coming and the going, starting the new and finishing the familiar, birthing and burying are hard. This movement is unsettling.

On this Monday, as some of us come and some of us go, may we all meditate on the fact that God promises to watch over us. God watches our coming and our going—and the places in between—both now and forevermore.

Lauren Brewer Bass and her husband David live and serve as Cooperative Baptist Fellowship field personnel in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.They blog regularly at www.davidandlaurenbass.com. Lauren is also the author of Five Hundred Miles: Reflections on Calling & Pilgrimage.

THIS IS WHAT A MINISTER LOOKS LIKE: Karen Kelley

Every Friday, Baptist Women in Ministry introduces an amazing minister, and today we are excited to introduce you to Karen Kelley. 

Karen, tell us about your current ministry role.

I am a member of the Mt. Olive Baptist Church in Stockbridge, Georgia. Since joining Mt. Olive in January 1985, I have grown a love for teaching and preaching God’s word through words and works. Over the last thirty years, I have led and served on various ministries. Currently, I am an adult Sunday School teacher, work in the church clothes closet; and serve on the grief ministry.

I am also an active member of the New Era Missionary Baptist Convention of Georgia, where I have had the opportunity to serve on various committees. Currently, I am the executive board president. During the summer, I work with the New Era Congress of Christian Education. Since July 2003, I have served either as a staff member or a faculty member. Currently, I am the Congress first vice president.

I also have been blessed to preach for many Women’s Day Services and teach at many Women’s Conferences. Currently, I am preparing to facilitate a missions conference for women in the near future. Once a month, I lead a small prayer group comprised of friends who meet for a time of sister share and fellowship.

How did you discern your sense of calling to ministry?

I was raised in a Christian home, and my parents taught and lived the word in front of me and my brother. I’ve even attended church all my life, but it wasn’t until I was  eighteen years old that I gave my life to Jesus and accepted Him as my Lord and Savior.

In January 1995, during a moment of prayer, I asked God “what was His will for my life?” After a few moments, I heard him say, “To Preach.” Upon hearing that, I got up from my moment of prayer and went about my business for the next five years.

In 2000, I began to sense an overwhelming desire to preach. I describe it as a pregnancy. God was growing the call to preach within me, and I could no longer run from the call or hide the call. Whenever I taught Sunday School or spoke in any manner, I felt a pushing to proclaim the Word. The call became so great that others witness the call to preach on my life. After running from the call and discouraging myself to even answer the call, I blurted out to my pastor on Saturday, October 21, 2000, that I had been called to preach.

Who have been sources of inspiration for you along the way?

My sources of inspiration are truly varied. I draw inspiration from many seasoned senior ministers—male and female. They have provided me with wisdom and “know-how” when it comes to maneuvering through ministry. I enjoy listening to senior preachers, because their sermons churn the gift of preaching within me. To hear them tell the story of Jesus in their own unique way inspires me to keep telling the story.

I draw inspiration from my peers—male and female—because they encourage me to continue in ministry and even to climb higher in ministry. My peers challenge me not to stay where I am in ministry or even spiritually. They challenge to grow and go in God.

Lastly, I draw inspiration from my family. My family has supported me since day one of the public announcement. They have seen me make mistakes and wrong decisions. They have watched me endure challenges and difficulties, and they have seen me grow in and through ministry. They inspire me to never give up, but to stay the course.

How do you keep yourself healthy–physically and spiritually?

I stay healthy physically by staying active. I keep moving and take advantage of opportunities to be physical. At work, I take the stairs instead of the elevator. I eat “clean,” staying away from beef. I eat very little pork. I mostly drink water.

Spiritually speaking, I believe wholeheartedly in personal private time of meditation. Daily, I give myself to reading a passage of scripture and a devotional, and then I spend time in prayer. I also believe in being a life-long learner, so I’m always taking classes to stay biblically sharp. Currently I am studying at the Ministry with Excellence (MWE) School of Ministry.

The Good Parts by Nikki Finkelstein-Blair

In 1973, William Goldman wrote a faux-historical novel, a tale of “True Love and High Adventure,” (fictionally) based on a ridiculously wordy, absurdly detailed (non-existent)academic tome by (made-up) scholar S. Morgenstern. Fifteen years later, Princess Buttercup and the farmboy Wesley came to the big screen. . .or, rather, for most of us who grew up on it, to our small living-room screens, where we could watch it over and over and memorize every “As you wish” and “Mawwidge.”

Goldman’s brilliant premise was that, while S. Morgenstern’s original work–an epic chronicle of the battles between Guilder and Florin, the excesses of the royalty, and medieval social commentary–was virtually unreadable, the good parts version made a fantastic story. Goldman set himself up not as author, but as editor and interpreter, and gave us what we really wanted: The Princess Bride.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the good parts of my own story since the last blog post I wrote for BWIM. Shortly after I sent it in, I followed it with an email confessing the realization that, even when I’m writing the most challenging and painful parts of my story, I tend to tell the good parts version. When Goldman wrote “The Princess Bride,” he told us the good parts–the interesting stuff, the stuff that kept us reading and watching and quoting-along. When I write, more often than not I tell the uplifting stuff, the feel-better stuff, the stuff that makes it all seem worth it. Maybe we all do that, in our testimonies and reflections and sermons and blog posts. Maybe we all act as editors and interpreters, and try to give what I imagine we all really want: a happy ending.

As for me–I’m afraid I’ve been confusing the good parts with the Good News.

Recently I’ve been studying the “Christ Hymn” in Philippians 2, which sings the great irony of Christ’s humbling himself to humanness, and even to death. In his commentary on the epistle, Fred Craddock wrote: “The extraordinary fact of Christ’s act was that at the cross the future was apparently closed. The grave of Christ was a cave, not a tunnel.” (Interpretation: Philippians, John Knox Press, 1985.)

Oh, how I want to turn all my griefs into tunnels. On the other side of the tunnel is the good parts version: the light guiding my way, promising safety, illuminating the lessons I learned in the dark. Giving meaning to my stumblings. Making my fears obsolete, and my tears worthwhile.

But Good News waits in the cave.

Good News doesn’t need to dismiss our fears, or justify our tears, or console us by forcing meaning out of loss. In the fullness of time, the sound of the stone rolling away, the blinding glare of sudden light in our eyes, always, always catches us by surprise. Because while the good parts version anticipates a tunnel, the great Good News is that caves and graves are not meant to be opened—but are.

Even now, as I write this post, I’m not sure how to conclude without ending with a good part. It feels like a piece of music ending too abruptly, with unresolving chords. It’s not just that we want the happy ending; we need the encouragement that comes from witnessing others’ Good News stories. We write and read and preach and listen in part to remind each other that stones roll, and light breaks in, and resurrection comes.

Sometimes, though, maybe what we need to write and read and preach and hear is that the cave is an agony. It’s difficult to breathe, and impossible to see. Our fears are real and reasonable, and our tears are worthwhile because they are true. While the good parts find us waiting expectantly for the tunnel to be revealed, Good News comes upon us when we are curled into a fetal position against the dark, eyes swollen and nose running and breath ragged. We may seek out good parts that come in spite of our struggles, but Good News comes because of our humanness and our heartbreaks.

In the Good News, may they yet be redeemed.

Nikki Finkelstein-Blair is an ordained Baptist minister, at-home mom, and military spouse living in Charleston, South Carolina. She blogs at One Faithful Step.

Psalm 121: The Lord is Your Shade

“The Lord watches over you—
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night. (Psalm 121:5-6)”

As many of you know, a few years back I walked an old pilgrimage route across northern Spain called the Camino de Santiago. Much of the route winds through cute medieval Spanish towns, through vineyards or through tree-covered mountains. But for parts of the route, you are out in the middle of the Spanish heat with nothing between you and the bright sun in the sky.

On one of those parts of the path, I found myself walking alone for the day with an empty water bottle, heat in the high 90s and not a tree for miles. The constant heat began to make me delirious. I tied the scarf that had been shielding my neck from the sun into a turban around my head. I tried to hide behind the shade of my own backpack on my back. Eventually I walked past a street sign and got an idea. I positioned my face in the shadow of the street sign. Shade. I had never wanted it so bad.

I’m sure the Psalmist understood this very real need to escape from the sun. But even those of us who normally spend our days indoors in offices or homes understand this metaphor, this need for “shade.” We know the need to escape the relentless pressure, endless pain or nonstop stress that sometimes dog us. We need shade. We need relief and shelter from the heat.

In Psalm 121 the Psalmist promises us that the Lord accompanies and watches us and that our God is the shade to our unrelenting circumstances. God is our relief. My prayer for us this Monday is that we would feel the shade of the Lord hovering over our lives today.
 

Lauren Brewer Bass and her husband David live and serve as Cooperative Baptist Fellowship field personnel in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.They blog regularly at www.davidandlaurenbass.com. Lauren is also the author of Five Hundred Miles: Reflections on Calling & Pilgrimage.

THIS IS WHAT A MINISTER LOOKS LIKE: Jenny Call

Every Friday, Baptist Women in Ministry introduces an amazing minister. Today we are pleased to introduce you to Jenny Call.

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

I am in my fifth year at Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia, where I serve as university chaplain. Prior to this, I ministered for eight years as a chaplain and Director of Christian Education for HopeTree Family Services, a residential group home for at-risk youth and developmentally disabled adults in Salem, Virginia. I love the variety in college chaplaincy, and it is a sacred gift to walk with students on their journeys, supporting them in the transition to adulthood as they discover their identity and calling. I see myself as an advocate for students and one who reminds our entire campus of the importance of spirituality. I advise them to “find sanctuary”, to make time and space for practices that renew and reconnect them to God and to the people that surround them.

How did you discern your sense of calling to ministry?

My call to ministry has been a roundabout journey, one that I didn’t plan, but makes complete sense in hindsight. I had decided by third grade that I wanted to be a scientist, and by college I was set on being a medical researcher, mostly due to the influence of passionate science teachers. I was on the pre-med track at William and Mary, my dream school, so all had gone according to plan. Until I became a research assistant in a biology lab, that is. I was a dismal failure. I hated the long and late hours in a lab without seeing another soul. It was lonely work, and it was technically and intellectually difficult for me, although it seemed to come easy to everyone else. My advisor pulled me aside one day and gently told me, “this is not for you.” I was crushed. I had always been told that I could be whatever I wanted to be, but she was right; it was not a good fit. I continued to push through and graduated with a B.S. degree in biology with a minor in chemistry. I moved to Richmond, Virginia with some college friends who would be entering seminary at Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond. After I moved, I commuted to Williamsburg twice a week to continue volunteering with the youth group at my church. I found that was where my thoughts and heart were most of the time, especially when I was working one of my two menial jobs to pay the bills. During an altar call at a youth camp with the group (at Liberty University, of all places), I prayed saying, “God, I love this so much. Why can’t I just do this as a job?” And the still, small, snarky voice in my head replied, “Well, why can’t you?” I felt a deep sense of peace and joy for the first time in years.

What/who have been sources of inspiration for you along the way?

I have been inspired by many women who have made a way for me, either through their support and love, or through their example in ministry. My mom and grandmother couldn’t have been prouder when I shared my call to ministry, even though we were in a fundamentalist Southern Baptist church that didn’t support women in pastoral ministry (which the pastor made abundantly clear to them). They were great advocates and were stubborn and feisty enough to step out of their assigned submissive role and argued with him on my behalf!

My own college ministry experience helped to guide me along the path to ministry, and helped me to see the Baptist faith (and faith in general) in a much more inclusive and open way. My Baptist campus minister at William and Mary, Pete Parks, fully supported all students’ gifts in ministry regardless of gender, and invited me to do an internship there when I had little idea of what that even meant. Thanks to campus ministry leadership retreats, I had the opportunity to explore and be affirmed in my gifts and met other ministers who would later become friends and colleagues.

In seminary at Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond, I heard women preach for the first time. I had female professors, including Tracy Hartman, who would end up officiating my wedding to my seminary love.

My husband, John, and our kids, Brady and Maryn, are always so encouraging and supportive of my work (particularly John, who became the stay-at-home parent so that I could manage the long and irregular hours of the job I love). I have been grateful for my connection to Baptist Women in Ministry and Virginia Baptist Women in Ministry, which have gifted me with supportive peers on the journey and the inspiration of the cloud of witnesses that have opened up the path. I’m grateful for a great group of clergy women friends in Roanoke, and particularly for Donna Hopkins Britt, who remains a pastor to me as well as a good friend.

What advice do you give college women who are sensing a call to ministry?

Working at Hollins is a wonderful opportunity as we are a women’s liberal arts school at the undergraduate level. The students inspire me daily as they have a far larger vision of what women can do than I had at their age. There are some that come from more conservative backgrounds like I did, and I love to see their hope grow as we talk about how God’s calling is so much larger than the rules and barriers that people create. The students help me to grow in my feminism and to see how God has gifted us all in different but complementary ways. One of my favorite parts of my work is when students come into my office terrified as they have no plan for what they will do after graduation. I try not to smile, as I don’t want to minimize their struggle. And yet, I offer my story as illustration of how God works in unexpected ways to help us find our passion and calling. Several of those students have found themselves exploring vocational ministry, and I enjoy being a mentor to them. My advice is for them to spend time in discernment, not being limited to what others say of their gifts and possibilities, but to what awakens their spirit and passions. How is God present and working in their lives? What could they spend all their time doing, even without pay? God creates us with our interests and gifts for a reason, and calls them to use them in service in ways that are life-giving and not completely draining. I also advise them of the importance of finding a community of faith and friendship that will support them along the way.

Lauren Week in the BWIM Office by Pam Durso

In the BWIM office, we have been calling this: “Lauren Week.” If you follow BWIM on Facebook, you will understand why. Every day this week, our page has featured quotes from Five Hundred Miles: Reflections on Calling and Pilgrimage, a book by Lauren Brewer Bass, a book that BWIM “commissioned” her to write, a book that BWIM is proud to be providing for college women who are discerning a call to ministry, a book that is as fun to read as it is inspirational.

Hopefully by now (Thursday morning), you have read a good number of “Lauren quotes,” and you are curious as to who this Lauren is . . . so let me introduce you to her.

Lauren Brewer Bass is a graduate of Logsdon Seminary, a gifted writer and thinker, and the most adventurous person I know. Following graduation from Logsdon, Lauren took a sabbatical (what a good idea), and during those months of rest and renewal, she made a pilgrimage, walking five hundred miles in Spain on the Camino de Santiago trail. Her book tells the story of that pilgrimage. Her book also tells the story of how her life unfolded once she returned to the states. For several years, she lived and worked in Denver, Colorado, serving in a variety of roles with non-profit organizations. She married her childhood sweetheart, David, and she accepted an assignment from the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship to serve as field personnel. A few weeks ago, Lauren and David boarded a plane and flew to Cambodia, where they are beginning a new pilgrimage, living out their callings, partnering with Cambodian Christians as together they share the gospel.

In the five years that I have known Lauren, she has been a source of inspiration and joy for me. Talking to her makes me almost want to walk five hundred miles in Spain! Reading her stories and “hearing” about the lessons she learned along the way has helped me rethink and reimagine my own calling. This “not-yet-thirty-year-old pilgrim” has become my teacher, my guide as I keep hearing, keep listening, keep seeking to follow God’s calling.

I hope you will get a copy of Five Hundred Miles and read it, and I HOPE you will share with us your “Reflections on Calling and Pilgrimage!”

You can order Five Hundred Miles by clicking here.