Every Friday, Baptist Women in Ministry features a fabulous minister on this blog. Today, we are pleased to interview Alice Tremaine. Alice IS what a minister looks like!
Alice, tell us about your ministry journey and the places and ways you have served and are serving.
I first felt a calling to ministry as a young teenager. I remember saying an earnest prayer of “Here I am, Lord, send me” in response to a strong conviction to serve. As a teenager, I relished preparing lessons for my youth group, and participating in local mission projects. I preached my first sermon at age fifteen, as part of Youth Sunday, and I felt drawn to help new members feel integrated in the church. However, I never considered that I had a call to full-time ministry until I was in college. Most professional women I knew had secular careers and volunteered their time in the church, and I thought that would have been me, as well. It wasn’t until I started taking religion courses in college that I felt a strong calling to seminary, and to make ministry my full-time work.
After graduating from divinity school, I decided to apply for clinical pastoral education as a hospital chaplain intern. The decision was partly due to necessity, because church ministry jobs were sparse, and also because a respected seminary professor had recommended clinical pastoral education to anyone serving in a ministerial role. I soon fell in love with healthcare chaplaincy and subsequently applied to a year-long residency. That was a year of discernment for me as I questioned whether healthcare chaplaincy was right for me and even whether to stay in ministry altogether. At the end of the year, not only did I feel I was in the right path, but doors also seemed to open at the right time for my first professional role as a hospice chaplain.
Shortly after beginning my work as a hospice chaplain, I was ordained for ministry at my home church of First Baptist, Corbin Kentucky. I was a hospice chaplain for several years before transitioning to the hospital setting as a chaplain manager. Currently, I serve as a regional Advance Care Planning coordinator for our health system, and part-time Palliative Care chaplain for our local hospital. I have also served as pulpit supply over the years and have recently began sharing the duties of interim ministry with two other ministers while our church is searching for a full-time pastor.
What have been your greatest sources of joy in ministry?
As a chaplain, I have been privileged to attend to some of the most sacred events in people’s lives: births, crises, celebrations, deaths. Time and time again, I am reminded that it is not what I do in those moments that matters the most to people, but who and what I represent. To them, I am a reminder and representation of God’s presence, love, and care. I consider it both a great responsibility and an honor that my role carries this meaning.
Praying with others is also a great source of joy to me, because of the strong connection I feel to others and God during those moments, and also because in prayer I am able to verbalize what might otherwise remain unsaid. I also enjoy the amount of creativity and humor I am able to bring into ministry. Even though there are somber moments in ministry, particularly in a healthcare setting, the possibilities for connections and creative expressions are endless.
Because I began participating in the interim ministry at my church, I have been preaching much more often than usual. I have found it to be a great source of joy to both discern and deliver the word of God in the context of a sermon.
What have been the greatest challenges you have encountered in ministry?
Early in my chaplaincy vocation, I found it very challenging to distinguish my role from that of other caring healthcare workers and to name the value of my work or ministry. I envied those who could concretely identify and measure their contributions and how well they worked. As a minister, it was difficult for me to measure the benefit of anything I offered, or even whether I was providing the best care at any particular situation.
Eventually, I’ve learned to embrace the unknowns in ministry and to appreciate that ministry hinges on relationship, rather than tasks. Sometimes when I am called in the middle of a crisis, I still feel anxious about what I can offer to someone and whether my offering will be adequate or helpful. In those moments, I remind myself that it’s not about me or my performance, but rather about being a witness to the other person’s experience, and to accompany them in suffering and in their experience of God and grace in the midst of suffering.
What advice would you give to a teenage girl discerning a call to ministry?
Don’t wait for someone to offer you an opportunity to serve. If you discern you have a particular gift, or find that you would like to explore ministry or develop a pastoral or ministerial skill, seek out a way to learn and engage in ministry. Offer to help with a ministry, or be creative about ministering to others in a practical way. Seek out mentors, and pay special attention to the roles in ministry that you find life-giving, or that bring you joy. Most importantly, lean in the assurance that you are God’s child and that is far more important than anything you do for or in the name of God.