Each week, Baptist Women in Ministry introduces an amazing minister. This week, we are thrilled to introduce Judith Myers.
Judith, tell us about your ministry journey and the places and ways you have served and are serving.
It took me a really long time to claim my call story. I grew up in a different world than most clergy women. From a young age, I knew I was going to be a minister of some kind (it was only a little later that I narrowed that down to pastor). From a young age, my church fully supported and encouraged that call. I didn’t know what it meant to be told that I couldn’t do this ministry. I didn’t know what it felt like to be redirected or to think that God was a God that didn’t call women into holy spaces like a pulpit.
I’ve served with several churches in a variety of roles- lowly internships that taught me about lock-ins, camps, and VBS, residencies that formed my gifts in preaching and pastoral care, and now pastor with a community of faith that loves one another with everything they have. I’m grateful for each community that has walked with me on this journey of realizing, accepting, and appreciating this call. They each have a part in tilling and watering the soil that allowed me, the seed, to grow and flourish. Thanks be to God for churches that encourage these calls.
How are you learning to navigate your new role as a pastor? How do you stay sane and healthy?
The biggest transition so far is the preaching. My congregation is getting used to hearing me preach every week. I’m getting used to hearing me preach every week. Sundays come much more quickly these days and my congregation is full of grace-filled folks.
Speaking of grace, being a pastor is hard. But, I do the best I can and depend on the Spirit to lead me and my congregation to do what we’re called to. I’m a naturally anxious person, so I try to stay calm. I’ve learned well how to be a non-anxious presence. But when that doesn’t work, I practice grace. I practice letting go of things that I don’t need to control as a bi-vocational pastor. I practice Sabbath and giving my body and mind what it needs—usually space to be alone, which typically happens Sunday after church.
As far as staying healthy, I like to think that I run. I signed up for a half-marathon, mainly for the t-shirts and fleece blanket. Running is good for me—it helps me think less about my stuff and forces me to focus on my breathing, my heartbeat, the sound of my feet hitting the pavement, and the sights. It’s very therapeutic. Then I go home and binge-watch Parks and Recreation. I channel my inner Leslie Knope daily.
What are your greatest joys in ministry?
I’m often reminded by all the holy grounds I get to stand on. I’m humbled by the people who choose to be vulnerable with me. Along with my love for serving with Emmanuel, I also work in hospice. I wear many hats in that job, but my favorite hat is the one that allows me to simply sit with the patients and their families. They talk, I listen. They talk about their life, their families, their vocations, their hobbies, their faith. I say a prayer and am reminded of the holy ground I’m privileged to stand on as they redefine their last phase of life.
My church has a few seasoned ministry folks. One was in chaplaincy for several years. Her stories are inspiring. She is also a Baptist and remembers the “big split” well. Every time I hear her stories as a fellow clergywoman, I’m reminded of the beauty and freedom that came out of some despair. Resurrection does certainly happen. And when you see it happening, you realize you’re standing on holy ground. My greatest joy in ministry is listening and being reminded that I’m constantly standing in those sacred and vulnerable spaces.
What is the best ministry advice you’ve been given?
Remain you. Through the ups and down of ministry, I’m reminded that God called ME, exactly as I am. I’m young, single, and female. I have some odds stacked against me when it comes to pastoral authority or trying to see over the pulpit (I’m also 5’2”). But, God called me. I recall the type of leader I am, my personality, my quirks, and strengths—take a deep breath, say a prayer, and step into this calling with an open heart, mind, and spirit.