Each week, Baptist Women in Ministry introduces an amazing minister. This week, we are thrilled to introduce Meg Lacy.
Meg, tell us about your ministry journey and the places and ways you have served and are serving.
Like many, my ministry journey has been a winding one! I originally went to seminary planning to do Ph.D. work. I was curious about the role of congregations in culture and wanted to study in the area of sociology of religion. I obviously loved the church—I wanted to spend my life studying it! But having grown up in a congregation that didn’t ordain women, I had a hard time seeing myself leading in a church. I had done a few congregational internships, and even worked as a youth minister briefly during college, but none of these things felt like a fit. Then, as often happens, God’s gentle whispers of calling grew louder and louder! For me, that looked like falling in love with the congregation I was serving in—Park Avenue Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia.
It was my love for Park Ave that helped me sense that my calling to the church wasn’t just academic. This congregation nurtured my gifts and helped me to name and claim my pastoral identity. After interning with Park Ave for over a year, I served as the sabbatical interim there and was ordained by the congregation after graduating from seminary. It was a beautiful season of learning and growth.
Then, as often happens in ministry, I moved on to my next place of calling: Emerywood Baptist Church in High Point, North Carolina. I have been at Emerywood for just over three years, and my role here has changed… and changed… and then changed again. Isn’t that just like church work? But I find that no matter what my title is, the work that energizes me is always about creating spaces for people to encounter God—through worship, small group studies, prayer groups, retreats, or serving our community and seeing God’s face in the face of a neighbor. This, I think, is the calling at the heart of the work I do.
What have been the greatest challenges you have encountered in ministry?
Hands down, the greatest challenge for me has been pastoral care. I love the people I serve among and one of my greatest joys (and gifts!) is building deep, authentic relationships. But I find that this gift can also be my greatest burden in ministry—sometimes I am too invested!
Our congregation has had a particularly rough year, with significant staff transitions and a number of deaths, including the tragic death of a teen. I found during that time that I needed to create stronger emotional boundaries with those I minister and that I needed to maintain space to care for myself and experience my own grief. Recognizing the limits of my capacity to care-give was not an easy or pretty journey for me—and most days, I’m still on the path of trying to figure it out! So often, both as women AND as pastors, our self-worth and sense of success is tightly bound to our ability to care for others well. Yet there is wisdom in knowing our limits, and truly believing that caring for ourselves well is just as important as caring for someone else. I find that having companions on the journey—clergy friends, a spiritual director, mentors—are the leaven that I need to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Their support buoys me when I hit a wall of emotional exhaustion or compassion fatigue, and they are there to encourage me when I feel like a failure because I can’t do it all. They graciously remind me that I am only human, and that God is the great healer of souls, not me.
What do you love best about your present ministry role?
Perhaps I will always be a student (read: nerd) at heart, because my two favorite parts of my current position are sermon preparation and leading small groups. While I enjoy the preaching moment, what I love most about preaching is the time spent in preparation. What a sacred task it is to go to God, and to the text, on behalf of my congregation, believing that there is a word for us in it—believing that God has something to say. I get chills just thinking about it! I love the beautiful space where study and prayer mingle together and turn into words and ideas that feel drenched in the Holy Spirit. Sermon preparation gives me energy and new life every. single. time.
I also love to facilitate small groups and book studies. At Emerywood—small groups have taken on a number of different forms—sometimes we have a theme we explore, or we meet for a particular liturgical season. Other times we study a book together, or try on prayer practices. On a personal level, I love getting to spend time with a small group and get to know them well. But in a broader sense, I love how God shows up so clearly in these small group settings, when we are given the opportunity to journey together for a season, and create safe space for authentic, and intimate conversation. Parker Palmer likes to say that the soul is like a wild animal, and if we want it to come out we don’t go crashing through the woods calling for it. Instead, we sit quietly down and wait for it to emerge. I love creating opportunities for our souls—our whole selves—to show up to one another and to God. I love seeing how the Spirit of God speaks in and through the group conversation—and how we all walk away changed, just by sharing in this sacred space.
Who have been your sources of inspiration and support along the way?
I have had the gift of so many amazing women in my life—pastors, professors, and especially friends. These women often hold my hand in the dark seasons, and take the time to celebrate with me in the beautiful moments. As a single person and an only child, I am doubly grateful for the friendships I’ve developed over the years, they have become a major source of strength and support.
Between the peaks and the valleys, though, I often find daily support and inspiration in between the pages of a book—their authors becoming companions on the journey. I enjoy Parker Palmer, who I mentioned above, Barbara Brown Taylor, Joan Chittister, Eugene Peterson, Jan Richardson, Richard Rohr, Kathleen Norris, just to name a few. A mentor recommended a book of daily readings called The Art of Pastoring: Contemplative Reflections, by William Martin. This little book has gone a long way to nourish my soul and help me find God’s love amidst the often chaotic—and occasionally tumultuous—life in ministry.