A couple of years into my tenure as minister of children and families at First Baptist Church of Christ, Macon, Georgia, I went to eat lunch at school with one of my first graders. Anna was excited that I was coming, and she greeted me with a picture she had drawn. I was certain that her work was a portrait of me, standing in front of our church. But there was one part of her art that I was less clear about. “Anna,” I asked, “what am I holding in this picture?” “It’s a magic wand,” she replied, “because you help make the magic happen at church.”
I took Anna’s picture with me and hung it up on my office bulletin board. As I continued to see it regularly and chew on her interpretation of my work, her image stuck with me. It became a symbol of what I came to discover as my own unique calling, my particular gift to the church. Anna was right–I didn’t perform the “magic,” but I helped make the magic happen for others. You see, I love to take care of all of the conversation and planning and details in order to make space for people to encounter the Holy, to experience something sacred. In congregational ministry, this often involved planning retreats or worship services or classes in which people connected with God and neighbor, or taking time to listen to someone who needed to talk, or receiving the questions and curiosities of children about their faith. I have been called to make space for the magic to happen.
As I prepared to begin a new season of ministry with Baptist Women in Ministry, I packed up my office at the church and began to move my things to my new office at home. But when I did, I made sure to pack Anna’s picture somewhere where I could find it, because even though my work has changed, my calling has not. I believe I am still in the business of making space for the magic to happen. I am hopeful that this will look like helping to find spaces for women in serve in ministry, of changing the culture of our institutions to open up spaces where the gifts of women leaders are welcomed more readily. I hope it will mean helping women who are discerning God’s call upon their own lives to make space for the stirring of the Spirit within their hearts. I hope it will involve connecting new ministers with those who can support them as they learn how to grow into and embrace their own unique purposes in their current places of service.
The good news is that the “magic” of God’s movement is all around us, and we don’t have to do a thing to make it happen. But, as a wise little child named Anna observed all those years ago, we can help make the magic when we join in this holy work.
Julie Long is associate director of Baptist Women in Ministry.