Finding a Ministry Position, Part 5: An Interview with Craig Janney

For those of you searching for a ministry position, you need to know Craig Janney, the new congregational reference and referral specialist at the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. Get to know Craig–and learn more about his work! Read this recent Baptist Women in Ministry “interview” with Craig.

Craig, tell us a bit about yourself–your education, calling, and ministry experience. 

I hold degrees from Chowan University (a B.A. in religion) and Gardner-Webb University (an M.Div. in pastoral studies). I was called to ministry in 1997 while attending Vinton Baptist Church as a youth and was ordained in 2009 by the First Baptist Church of Ahoskie, North Carolina. During my time in divinity school, I served as a youth and music minister at a church plant in Polkville, North Carolina. The fluidity of my calling also extended to my undergraduate alma mater, where I served after seminary as an associate campus minister, instructor in religion, athletic chaplain, and “admissionary” (read: Admissions as an extension of my calling). From 2010 to 2015, I served as the bi-vocational pastor of Mt. Carmel Baptist Church in Seaboard, North Carolina.

You began work with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship in April. Tell us about your new role and your contribution to CBF life.

My job is to connect churches with individuals seeking ministry positions throughout the Fellowship and to equip search committees with resources for filling their church staff positions. Recruiting and retaining churches and clergy to CBF is my job. Every church searches for ministers differently; tailoring my work to each congregation is refreshing and rewarding.

For those who aren’t familiar with LeaderConnect, could you tell us how it works?

CBF’s reference and referral ministry uses a proprietary virtual relationship matching database called LeaderConnect. Churches and candidates fill out profiles. While search committees post open ministry positions, candidates upload a resume and occasionally a general “Dear Search Committee” cover letter.

After a search committee has posted an opening, I review their profile, ask any questions to clarify the position, activate their profile, and run a matching query (using on fourteen criteria). Once the match is run, I will send the church targeted resumes for their ministry opening based on ministers’ experience, preference, compensation, geography, and philosophy. Typically, churches receive between five and sixty resumes depending on how many they would like and how far along they are in the search process.

What are other resources do you personally or CBF as a “denomi-network” provide for ministers looking for a position?

Many people are sympathetic to churches actively involved in searching for a new minister and rightfully so. Discerning a ministry transition for clergy is equally taxing to her/his spiritual life and family. Keeping a balance of professionalism and anticipation for the unknown next often yields those dreaded “dark nights of the soul” as one pastor reminded me recently. One resource I provide is compassionate, pastoral care to ministers in transition. The sacred work of holding these stories confidentially is similarly vital to celebrating new places of ministry.

Beyond pastoral care, I take time each week to look over resumes and cover letters to make sure ministers are providing the right information to search committees in an attractive, user-friendly way. Coaching our clergy about how to interview over the phone, via Skype, and in person is another offering I provide.

Developing relationships is one of the great benefits of our denomi-network! LeaderConnect is a high-tech algorithmic database and CBF is a high-touch beloved community. Every minister and every church using reference and referral receives encouraging, prayerful, and intentional service.

What resources do you provide for churches and other “searching” organizations?

Our mission at CBF is to “serve Christians and churches as they discover and fulfill their God-given mission.” Reference and referral is committed to assisting churches in their search for a leader who will serve the unique mission of a congregation.

Many search committees use our targeted match-making ministry to supplement their search efforts. A few churches enlist us to be their sole avenue for receiving resumes and profiles, which brings uniformity to their process and levels the playing field for the ministers–among Cooperative Baptists, this phenomenon is gaining traction.

Our website has a list of articles and resources search committees have found useful to frame their work. While these resources are by no means exhaustive or cookie-cutter, they do provide guidance for churches doing the hard work of defining, searching, vetting, and calling a new minister.

Candidates would do well to browse through these resources to help them understand what information search committees are using to inform their process.

What are some of your dreams about the future of CBF and how your work contributes to that future?

Along with the LeaderConnect system, which helps with leadership matching for churches and applicants, the vision for reference and referral is to create, provide and curate a wealth of resources for church search committees, recent graduates, individuals seeking church positions and those looking to employ all levels of church positions.

Ruth Perkins Lee, director of ministries at CBF, and I are going to be visioning this August for what the reference and referral ministry will become. Expanding Ministers on the Move at General Assembly, offering workshops around reference and referral to equip ministers and churches with best practices, and expanding our reach while maintaining bespoke attention are among our priorities.

What is the best advice you have given or received when it comes to the search process?

Getting a job is a job. Approaching the search process as your job requires an investment of your time. As one who has hired and has been hired, nearly every interview has the same skeletal questions:

Q: “What can you tell us about yourself?”

A: Write a paragraph–because you’ll have to write copy for your new employer’s website eventually–and commit it to memory. Practice it every day to make it natural.

Q: “What do you know about us?”

A: Describe the church/organization in fourteen seconds or less. Define their niche, reinforce their brand, and build excitement for the future. Some churches have a robust “About” section on their website; if not, ask a state coordinator, former professor, associational director, or city administrator how they would describe the church/organization.

Q: “Why should we hire you?”

A: Demonstrate your awareness of the key skills, expertise and experience required to do the job and give concrete examples (read: narratives) that prove you possess those skills. Bullet point the things that energize you about that particular job.

Q: “What questions do you have?”

A: Prepare three good questions that begin with the word “What . . . ” During your interview another question might arise; write it down, but always start your question with “What . . . ” to keep their answer open-ended. The more a search committee talks, the more you learn.

Change always makes people stressed; and stressed spelled backwards is desserts, so choose your flavor. Also, if you’re ever passing through the Atlanta metro region, or see me at General Assembly, let’s get together and talk over . . . you guessed it, desserts!

Food For Life by Missy Ward Angalla

food for lifeAnna came to my office in tears. Her eyes were swollen from crying for several hours. She walked two hours to our office, desperate to find help. She explained to me that she had arrived in Uganda six months before after the soldiers came to her village one evening. They killed her husband and raped her for several days in front of her two children, and they then burned down her family’s home. As a result of being raped, Anna contracted HIV.

Now Anna near me and explained that she came to Uganda in search of peace. Unfortunately, she continued to experience hardship and suffering in Uganda, because she did not have the vocational or language skills to get a job.

Anna had lived through in one year what no one should experience in a lifetime. Her needs were overwhelming and complex. As I listened, I prayed for Anna and for God’s provision of wisdom of what to do next. I felt led to give Anna and her family an emergency food bag, and I invited her to apply for our new vocational training program. I explained to her that although we could not give her money to help with rent and food, the training would provide her with the skills needed to support herself and her family.

I felt led to give Anna a Bible, and I shared that God is with her and loves her. I told her that we care about her and she is welcome here at our center. Tears came to her eyes, and a big smile spread across her face. She explained that she did not have a Bible anymore since their family’s Bible had been destroyed in the fire, and then Anna said, “ THANK YOU!! Thank you. The food is good, but it will only feed me for days. This Bible is the word of God that will feed me for life. Thank you.”

Anna returned to my office one week later to turn in her application for the new training program. She was proud and excited. This time she had a big smile on her face. She said “ my kids wanted me to tell you, “God bless you. God has now come back into our home. We read the Bible every day, pray and sing together.” Anna then shared with me a beautiful worship song in her language. Tears came to my eyes as I reflected on the profound work that God was already doing in Anna’s life to restore hope and create in her something new.

Anna has enrolled in the cooking and sewing vocational training program. She is now a part of a community of women who pray with her and encourage and support her. I am thankful to minister with and among women like Anna, who have often hope due to overwhelming circumstances and the abuse they have endured, but who now have restored hope in the God who created them, loves them and is with them.

Missy Ward Angalla serves in Uganda as a Cooperative Baptist Fellowship field personnel. She is the refugee women’s advocacy coordinator with Refuge and Hope International. This post first appeared on her blog, Missy in Uganda.

Prissy Tunnell’s Fifty Years of Ministry by Micah Pritchett

Pam Ron Prissy MicahOn Sunday, September 7, 2014, North Broad Baptist Church in Rome, Georgia, celebrated Priscilla Tunnel’s fifty years of ministry.

Prissy was perhaps fated to a life of ministry. Both her grandmother and mother served as the president of the WMU of Georgia. If you go far enough back in Prissy’s family tree, you will find the hymn writer, Isaac Watts, who wrote “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” and “Joy to the World.” Seems that a ministry of missions and music was in Prissy’s DNA from the very beginning.

The energy and enthusiasm that Prissy brings to ministry has always been part of who she is. A few years ago Prissy’s mother was watching a documentary about ADHD and Ritalin. She called Prissy over to her, took Prissy’s face in her hands, and said, “Prissy Jones, if they had this when you were a child, you would have been on it!”

While she was a twenty-year-old college student at Stetson University working on her bachelor of music in voice and choral conducting, Prissy took her first ministry position. That was fifty years ago this month. She served as the associate minister of music at First Baptist Church, DeLand, Florida for two years and then became the minister of music at First Baptist Church, Indialantic, Florida.

After graduating from college, Prissy moved to Fort Worth, Texas, to attend Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where she earned a Master of Divinity with a focus on education. While in seminary, she worked in social ministry, first as the Baptist Center assistant director at Broadway Baptist Church and then as the director of weekday activities at Gambrell Street Baptist Church. While in Fort Worth, Prissy also gave birth to her son Mark, a “seminary baby.”

Upon graduation, Prissy was appointed as a Southern Baptist missionary to Vietnam, serving there from 1970 to 1975. She has more stories than you can believe from those years, including having a root canal with no pain medication and conducting the first, and as far as we know only, performance of Handel’s Messiah in that country. Her time in Vietnam ended with her family refugeeing out of the country as South Vietnam fell.

Prissy was next appointed as a missionary to Costa Rica and served there for a year before returning to the United States to work as a home missionary for the North American Mission Board. She was the assistant director of Refugee Resettlement, working with the boat people who were fleeing Vietnam. Prissy spoke the language and had experience in social ministry so she was a natural fit for the position. This ministry led to her family adopting three Vietnamese refugee children.

Although Prissy left the mission field, missions has never been far from her heart. Through the years, she has led mission teams to England, Spain, Jordan, Thailand, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Peru, Honduras, and Ecuador. Many of those trips involved coordinating mission teams that led a VBS-type camp for the children of missionaries. Those camps took place during the annual missionary meetings.

Prissy spent the 1980s as the minister of children and families at Second Ponce de Leon Baptist Church in Atlanta. From there she went to Franklin, North Carolina, where she served as the minister of music, senior adults, and children at First Baptist Church.

In 1997, Prissy was called as minister of faith development by First Baptist Church, Rome, Georgia. She served there for fourteen years, and in 2000, Prissy was finally ordained.

Prissy “retired” in 2011, but it did not take long for her to find her way to North Broad Baptist Church, where we put her to work, first as interim children’s minister, and then two years ago, we called her as our minister of music and children.

In addition to church ministry, Prissy has written children’s missions curriculum for the WMU and for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, served as a member of the coordinating council of CBF of Georgia, and mentored many ministers, including her work as a ministry coach for recent graduates of McAfee School of Theology. She is also co-author of Stories That Won’t Go Away: Women in Vietnam 1959-1975. In 2002, Baptist Women in Ministry of Georgia recognized Prissy as the Distinguished Church Woman of the Year. That same year she also received the Jack Naish Christian Educators Leadership Award from The Center for Christian Education.

This thumbnail sketch of churches and titles just scratches the surface. Behind the names of all of those churches are countless lives that have been touched by Prissy’s ministry. Individuals, children, and families who she has ministered to, counseled with, led in worship, and touched in countless ways. We give thanks to God for Prissy Tunnell and the way she has allowed God to work through her for the good of the kingdom.

Micah Pritchett is pastor of North Broad Baptist Church, Rome, Georgia.

A Mother’s Dream by Missy Ward Angalla

Missy EveWar and genocide came to Eve’s village when she was just a teenager. Her world as she knew it was turned upside down. Eve and her family were forced to flee. Like so many women in our world, Eve never had the opportunity to attend school (women make up 2/3 of the population of illiterate people in our world according to the UN). Eve married at a young age and had two beautiful daughters named Lily and Jenny. She dreamed that one day her daughters would have the opportunity to attend school.

Eve moved to Uganda three years ago as a refugee and enrolled in English classes at our refugee community center. Unfortunately, Eve was continually verbally and physically abused by her husband. In the spring of 2013, Eve’s husband called her to inform her that he was divorcing her and no longer supporting her, Lily, or Jenny. Dismayed and desperate, Eve made a twenty-four-hour bus ride to attempt to reconcile with her husband. For the next eight months, her husband continually abused her. Then war started again in her area. Eve described hearing gunshots for several days. Some of these shots were right outside of her door. During this time, she was afraid for the her life and for the life of her daughters. She would lay on top of them to protect them and pray to Jesus who she had learned was the prince of peace and a God who loved and gave grace.

Through God’s provision, Eve found a way back to Uganda in January of this year. She was severely traumatized and discouraged. We met regularly to pray together and talk about things. In May, Eve was invited to participate in our women’s empowerment  program. She had the opportunity to receive individual and group counseling, discipleship through nightly Bible study, English, life skills, and vocational and business training. Eve went through a significant period of healing and transformation. She loved learning about the Bible and excelled in her business and vocational training classes. Still, she continued to struggle with not being able to fully afford paying for her daughter’s school fees. She shared with a women’s ministry staff,  “ I regret not being with my husband. I wish I endured the beatings. At least my girls would be able to be in school. I cannot support them.” Eve sold all of the jewelry that she had in order to enroll her girls in school. She is a mother who is determined to give her girls the opportunity for an education that she never had.

Missy girlsIn the last month and a half, after transitioning from the program, Eve has successfully found ,a job and is now in safe housing. Still, her monthly wages are only enough to be able to afford transportation, food and rent for her family. At the end of July, a group of children from a church in Gainesville, Georgia, raised money during their VBS to help pay for Lily and Jenny’s school fees. Thanks to their hard work and generosity, Lily and Jenny will be able attend school during the upcoming term. I had the privilege of sharing this news with Eve one day last week. As I shared, tears came to my eyes as I saw this heavy burden being lifted off of Eve’s shoulders. A huge smile came across her face. She immediately wrapped her arms around me and said “Oh thank you! Thank you! Thank you!!!!! I am so happy!!!!

I am deeply grateful to those who have made it possible for Eve to attend the Women’s Empowerment program where she gained a deeper understanding of God’s love, hope, grace, and purpose for her life. I am also deeply grateful for the group of children from across the world who have now made it possible for Lily and Jenny to attend school, an opportunity not afforded to so many girls in our world.

 God has provided through this group of children. Thanks to God’s provision, Eve’s dreams for her daughters has now come true.

Missy Ward Angalla serves in Uganda as a Cooperative Baptist Fellowship field personnel. She is the refugee women’s advocacy coordinator with Refuge and Hope International. This post first appeared on her blog, Missy in Uganda.

Watching Summer Fade by Merianna Neely Harrelson

Merianna Neely Harrison I was sitting on our back porch a few nights ago, watching the puppies sniff the wind and smile. I knew that the cool breeze meant that summer was fading away. There was certainly something inside of me that sighed with disappointment that we have to get back into a routine in which bedtime has to be stuck to and lazy summer nights are gone. There was another side of me that sighed with relief as I felt the cool breeze, a relief from 110 degree days and long, hot runs.

This is the first fall in twenty-nine years that I won’t be in a classroom (do you think that will last?) as either a teacher or student and thus marks the shift from student to minister more fully in my mind. The shift is even more evident to me as I watch the yellow school bus roll down the road full of kids and then see my car sitting in the driveway, resting after so many weeks upon weeks of commuting.

Just as my seminary professors prophesied, my days and weeks are already full to the brim. The time spent sitting in three-hour classes has already been filled. But along with a full schedule, I also have a full heart as I await what the fall breeze has in store. The rhythm of ministry is different than the rhythm of teaching and learning. There is an unexpectedness that is constantly right around the corner. Plans are made to be modified and adjusted to walk or meander alongside seeking evidence of the divine in daily life and hoping for revelation.

I put my nose to the wind and smile just like the pups.

Merianna Neely Harrelson is pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Fellowship, Lexington, South Carolina. This post first appeared on her blog

Glass Backboards: Learning from the NBA by Meredith Stone

Tuesday markMeredith Stoneed a first for the National Basketball Association. The San Antonio Spurs hired former Women’s National Basketball Association all-star player, Becky Hammon, to be an assistant coach. She will be the first full-time female coach on an NBA bench. Hammon and the Spurs have cracked the proverbial glass backboard.

As you might imagine, the blog-o-sphere has erupted with opinions about the hire of Hammon. And if the team was anyone other than the Spurs (the current NBA champs who are known to be low-key innovators focused on teamwork), people might be tempted to call the hire a publicity stunt.

But the most interesting aspect of the conversation around Hammon and the NBA is why the NBA is ahead of other men’s sports in gender equity. Last week the NBA Players Association elected Michelle Roberts, a Washington, D.C. lawyer, to be its new executive director. The NBA also has women who are referees, women who serve as part-time assistant coaches, and even head coaches of NBA farm teams. The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports reports that over 40% of all professional positions in the NBA are held by women and the NBA receives the highest marks for gender diversity among all men’s professional sports.

In a recent article, Amanda Hess, a staff writer at Slate, suggests that perhaps the NBA is so far ahead of other sports in gender equity because women actually play basketball (unlike in sports such as football, baseball, hockey–there are exceptions of course). Women have experience playing the same game, with the same rules, and thus, they are able to break into a largely male-oriented business more easily. Plus people are more receptive to women in basketball leadership because they have seen that women can play and do understand the game.

Some say that the glass backboard for women in ministry has already been cracked. And, indeed, it has been in some churches! But there are many more churches in which the stained-glass ceilings are still very much intact. And in those places, I think we can learn from the NBA.

As we see more and more women gracefully lead and minister sharing Christ’s hope to a world in need, as we see more women “playing the same game,” maybe it will be easier for women to enter into the largely male-oriented business of ministry. Maybe people and congregations will even become more receptive because they have seen capable women who are able to effectively practice and reflect on ministry.

Visuals are important to imagination. Our imaginations are constructed of things we have seen. For example, we can only imagine what heaven looks like by creating a new configuration of things we have already experienced. The NBA has seen women play, lead, and strategize, and as a result, it has been able to build a new imagination.

In the same way, we construct our imaginations of what ministry and the church look like based on what we have seen. As Baptists, may we find ways to provide the visual pieces necessary to construct a new ministry imagination that includes women more fully. And then, like the NBA, maybe our Baptist denominational groups (denomi-networks?) might even be able to report numbers like 40%.

Meredith Stone is the women in ministry specialist for Texas Baptists. She lives in Abilene, Texas, with her husband, James, and their two really fun daughters! 

What Can She Do? by Tammy Abee Blom

Some conversations stick with you. At a recent social event I was making small talk when a lady asked, “What do you do?” I told her that I was an ordained minister. She asked what denomination, and when I told her Baptist, she breathed, “Oh” with the sub-context of “Really? I didn’t think they did that.” Then she asked, “So do you pastor a church?” I explained that I am the at home parent to my two girls, I write for BWIM, and I volunteer in my church.” She shared, “My niece is going to a divinity program in the fall. She wants to be a minister.” I declared my delight, and then her next comment surprised me. She asked, “But what can she do if she becomes a minister?”

I was silent in the face of her question. What ran through my mind were the faces of friends and colleagues who serve as chaplains, pastors, professors, leaders of non-profits, staff ministers, and on and on. I didn’t know what to say because I didn’t know where to begin. She filled the silence by saying, “Well, I know she could go into missions. I know women can be missionaries.” And then it occurred to me. She really doesn’t know what options are available to women in ministry because her church experience must not include women clergy. I answered her question in a way that I perceived would intersect with her church experience. I asked, “Do you know what men in ministry do?” She said, “Oh yes.” I replied, “Your niece can do that.” She asked, “Preaching, funerals, weddings? She could do all of that?” I answered, “Yes. She can do all of that and more.”

I have encountered negative responses to my calling at one time or another; and by the tone of the ongoing conversation, I expected this woman to question why I was ordained or why her niece was pursuing something that could not become a ‘real job’. Instead, I was faced with the chance to put a face to women in ministry and to give testimony to how it works. I continue to question my answer because “What can she do?” is such a broad and far reaching question. I could have told story after story of amazing women in ministry and how God uses them to further the kingdom. Instead I chose to plant the seed that women can serve churches.

I am thrilled the lady cares so dearly for her niece that she is asking, “What can she do?” and she is permitting her niece to change her understanding of what a minister looks like. I don’t know if I will ever meet this lady again but I sure would like to know what path her niece’s ministry takes; and I hope there are many women in ministry along her way who give faces to the many ways God can use us.

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.

 

*Pictured, from top to bottom: Rev. Tammy Abee Blom, Rev. Courtney Allen – Minister of Community Ministry and Missions at First Baptist Church, Dalton, GA, Rev. Lauren Waggoner – Minster to Children at First Baptist Church, Marietta, GA, and Rev. Jessica Prophitt – United States Air Force Chaplain

 

Receiving Grace by Brittany Riddle

As ministers, we have been taught to keep the question, “How can I be of service to others?” at the forefront of our minds.  It’s a great question—one that keeps us from living self-centered lives.  I even have symbols in my home and office that remind me of that question every day.  Most notably, a small towel with my name on it, representing servanthood that was given to me when I graduated from seminary.  Underneath it is the quote, “Ministry is finding a towel with your name on it.”  Our calling as ministers is to serve.  Sometimes we serve with grace and humility; sometimes we serve to the point of exhaustion.  Rarely do we gracefully RECEIVE.

After a recent injury, I had the opportunity to be on the receiving end of peoples’ generosity and care, and I quickly realized that is a difficult and uncomfortable place for me to be.  I do not want to be a burden to others, I tell myself.  I do not want to be dependent.  And I certainly do not want to owe anyone anything.

After assuring someone with a very kind offer of help that I didn’t really need that help, I realized that my discomfort with receiving grace affects my relationships with others and also probably limits my openness to God’s grace.  I had bought into society’s message that I need to be completely self-reliant and stubbornly independent.  I was not allowing others in my community to care for me in the same way that I would care for them in a similar circumstance.  I was saying “no” and shutting people out when what my body and soul needed most was for me to say, “yes,” and allow people give a helping hand.

It reminds me of the time when Jesus accepted expensive oil to be poured at his feet despite Judas’ objections of wastefulness.  Jesus didn’t NEED the perfume Mary poured for him, but he RECEIVED the perfume graciously with appreciation for Mary’s kindness.  He continued to build a sense of community with those around him.  He said “yes” in such a way that a ministry opportunity was created rather than saying “no” and shutting Mary down, negating her generosity and possibly embarrassing her.

I am thankful to be surrounded by loving and caring people who help teach me to say “yes” to receiving grace even when my natural tendency is to do something all by myself.  Their offers of care and help continue to teach me to embrace the community over the individual.  They teach me humility and respond with grace when I ask for help.  They teach me to take care of myself with their gentle, but persistent urgings to go home and rest after a long day of work.

As a minister, I am called to serve.  But to be able to receive grace and care has strengthened my relationships and sense of community with the people I serve in a whole new way.  Thanks be to God.

Brittany Riddle is the Minister to Adults at Vinton Baptist Church in Vinton, Virginia.

Brittany Riddle is the Minister to Adults at Vinton Baptist Church in Vinton, Virginia.

Another Room in God’s House by Jane Hull

Jane Hull WatkinsvilleJane HullJane HullAfter more than forty years as a Baptist pastor, the well-known and beloved John Claypool left the Baptist world to become an Episcopal priest. When quizzed as to why he would do such a thing, he responded, “I am just moving to another room in God’s house.” While in no way equating myself with John Claypool, I now find myself in the same situation. In less than two weeks, I will become the pastor of Union Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Watkinsville, Georgia. Leaving behind sixty years of being a Baptist, I find myself “moving to another room in God’s house.”

A few Sundays ago I had the privilege of attending the Episcopal ordination of a dear friend, Mary Bea Sullivan. Mary’s husband is the son of a Baptist pastor, is a former Baptist pastor himself, and is now an Episcopal priest. Sitting two rows in front of me was another Baptist minister friend who, years ago sang an original song as hands were being laid on my husband during his service of ordination as a Baptist pastor. As the service progressed, familiar words that were sung at my own ordination by my Baptist minister daughter, Emily, were being sung by the congregation:

I, the Lord of sea and sky, I have heard my people cry.
All who dwell in dark and sin, my hand will save.
I who made the stars of night, I will make their darkness bright.
Who will bear my light to them? Whom shall I send?
Here I am Lord, Is it I Lord? I have heard you calling in the night.
I will go Lord, if you lead me. I will hold your people in my heart.

Why the history lesson? As I sat in the back of the sanctuary, the memories that were flooding over me helped me arrive at a clearer understanding of this ministry to which we are all called. It does not matter in which “room” we serve. What matters is that we listen to God’s call and follow that call wherever it may lead. Today I am thankful that my new experience is a “both/and” and not an “either/or.” Both my sixty years of Baptist heritage and ministry and my new calling to the Disciples of Christ are joining together. I am still a Baptist Woman in Ministry and a Disciples of Christ pastor. God is good!

Jane Hull will begin service as pastor of  Union Christian Church, Watkinsville, Georgia, on June 2, 2014. 

Toot Your Own Horn – by Tammy Abee Blom

Tammy Abee Blom preachingNervously, I sat with the other parents at middle school orientation. Most of us could not grasp that our gangly, half child, half adult fifth graders would be allowed to roam free in such a large school, and would be expected to locate classrooms and show up on time, every day. What were these people thinking? The school counselor gained our attention with these words, “Middle school is about learning to advocate for yourself. In the elementary years, parents advocate for students; here, we teach students to advocate for themselves.” She explained that students would learn to ask questions about assignments, follow up with teachers about grades, and learn to speak up for themselves. Middle school is about learning to advocate for yourself.

As I completed my final year of seminary in the early 1990s, I knew ordination was the next step for me. Wise, kind leaders had assured me that ministry jobs were easier gained for non-ordained women. These leaders wanted me to have a chance to serve in a church, so they discouraged my ordination. However, I knew I wanted to be ordained,  and  I was serving a church that I perceived would be open to my ordination.  In the months prior to graduation, I mentioned my desire for ordination to several church leaders. I waited for someone to initiate the process, but nothing was happening.  I expressed my frustration to my mentor, Mary Lois Sanders, a woman in ministry. She shared a phrase of her mother’s with me. “She that tooteth not own her kazoo, the same shall not be tooted.” With these words of encouragement, she counseled me to submit a letter requesting ordination to the pastor and the church council. She assured me that if the letters did not incite action, then she knew of further steps to be taken. Shortly after the letters were submitted, the church voted to ordain me. I was ordained on May 22, 1994 at Bridgewater Baptist Church in New Jersey. The ordination service, as well as the reception, felt like a celebration of not only my ministry, but the ministry of the church. I would have missed this joy if I had not advocated for myself.

Advocating for yourself does not simply require “putting the word out there,” or even asking for what you want. Self-advocating is a multi-layered process of utilizing the system, seeking counsel, and persevering in your request. Advocating for yourself requires courage and patience. Speaking up for yourself makes you vulnerable – and to hope while waiting is taxing. Speaking up for yourself seems in direct opposition to the habits of pre-adolescence where they want to blend in as best they can. Maybe that’s why my daughter’s middle school emphasizes advocating for yourself. Rather than permitting pre-teens to fade into a group, being in middle school gives them the tools for standing up and possibly standing out. Like my daughter and her peers, God has gifted each of us with talents and skills. It seems appropriate that we would speak up for places of service. Advocating for yourself enables you to live out your calling.