Each week, Baptist Women in Ministry introduces an amazing minister. This week, we are thrilled to introduce Morgan Caruthers.
Morgan, tell us about your ministry journey and the places and ways you have served and are serving.
During my first year of college at Bible College in Strathmore, AB Canada, I realized for the first time I had never had a pastor or Sunday school teacher who was a woman unless they were teaching with their husbands. One of my professors, Kathy Browley, found a meaningful way to agitate this awareness in me so that I could begin to piece together what I actually believed as a follower of Christ. She taught me how to grapple with my leadership as a woman in the church. At the end of our year at Bible College, Kathy hugged me goodbye and said, “Goodbye, Pastor,” to which I said, “That’s funny because we Baptists don’t have women pastors.” She answered, “I know what I said and I meant it.” Kathy’s words would continue to agitate and challenge what I felt to be an internal draw, a calling if you will, to the church but had yet to have a Baptist pastor who was a woman.
Not until my internship for my Master of Social Work/Master of Divinity program would I serve under the leadership of a woman. I had the pleasure of working with two remarkable Baptist pastors who were women. Much of my finally listening and allowing this call to settle into the possibility of my future is due to Amy Butler and Leah Grundset Davis, who taught me the strength, grace, and wisdom of being a Baptist pastor. My journey with Calvary Baptist Church, Washington D.C. was what offered me the chance to explore ordination and ultimately resulted with my ordination there on July 8, 2012.
When I returned to seminary from my time in D.C., I had the joy of working with two female pastors during my final year of school, Marsha Marty and Dorisanne Cooper. They taught me the strength of a gentle presence in leadership. After seminary, I worked at the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd in Austin, Texas for two years as their associate pastor for youth ministry. In April 2014, I was called as pastor of youth and young Adults at Calvary Baptist Church in Denver, Colorado. I now serve as Calvary’s pastor, with focus areas in missions, intergenerational ministries, and youth ministry. I have the pleasure of serving under the leadership of Pastor Anne Jernberg Scalfaro.
What do you love most about your current ministry role?
In my current role, I love seeing youth and adults find their theology through questions. They continue to find freedom and grace in knowing their questions are part of their discernment and discipleship. As they move further into a theology of questions, they find meaning in living without absolutes and without answers. It is a challenge as one of their pastors to hear their questions and realize I too do not have the answers but have found great joy and peace in joining them in their questions. It reminds me to hold my faith with open hands, no matter how easy it can be to find a quick answer and close my fists around it.
What have been the greatest challenges you have encountered in ministry?
One of the greatest challenges in ministry has been to allow my ministry to not be my identity. It has been so easy for me to compare myself to others who are well known or leading voices in the work of the church and theology, and at times, I have forgotten that this work isn’t about comparison but about being present with my congregation and the city I live in. Thankfully, continual work with my Spiritual Director has been a key practice in allowing me to be present and find freedom in not comparing.
Another challenge has been to find the perpetual balance of pastoral and prophetic, especially in the past two years. When my personal desire or convictions want to be prophetic without regard for a pastoral approach, I have learned that I lose the space for the congregation and myself to stand in the grace together. It has been a journey of trusting my congregation and trusting myself to be ready to hear the prophetic words of following Jesus. What I’ve learned, for my congregational context, is that the trust is part of the pastoral approach to walking in the prophetic movement of Christ.
During my Lewis Fellowship last year, I had words to put to one of my challenges. I have always struggled with accessing ministry success by numbers because it feels one-sided and doesn’t always account for the growth that can happen when smaller numbers are present. During my fellowship, I was given the language of assessing ministries by fruitfulness, which can include numbers but is not based solely upon them. When measuring by fruitfulness I am able to ask what the purpose of a ministry is. It allowed me to figure out that my challenge with number assessment allow was that it never got me to the “so that” of a ministry. We created a new worship service so that people can connect in worship in a way that feels more natural and approachable to their discipleship journey. I still slip into evaluation by numbers but have been grateful to have the knowledge of fruitfulness to balance it out.
What is the best ministry advice you ever received?
The best ministry advice I have received was to find a group of colleagues who pray with you, bounce sermon ideas around with, hear your raw hardships and joys of ministry, and will challenge you and comfort you. My mentors told me the people who belong to their groups have been their lifeline when ministry gets to be too much to continue with or when personal lives get wounded by the strains of ministry. I’m learning for myself now that this is some of the best advice I can put into practice.