Each week Baptist Women in Ministry introduces an amazing minister. This week we are thrilled to introduce Amy McClure.
Amy, tell us about your ministry journey–places and ways you have served and are serving now.
My first memory of my “ministry journey” was when I was a very small child sitting in Mission Friends at Hazelwood Baptist Church in Waynesville, North Carolina listening to my teacher, Debbie Hyatt, tell me about people who chose to move far away from home so that they could tell people about Jesus. This absolutely fascinated me and I knew then that God was calling me to do something. I just wasn’t sure what my journey would look like. As a young girl, I was surrounded by amazing women and men who told me the stories of our faith and showed me the love of Jesus in tangible ways.
After graduating from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2006, where I was active in the Baptist Student Union, I found myself living in Liberia, West Africa serving as a missionary. This experience proved to be the most formative time in my life as I walked the journey with the Liberian people, learning how to do life together, how to be the church in a vulnerable time following their civil war, and learning how to be open and ready for whatever God may have had in store with each new day. Following Jesus looked very much like the stories I heard as a child in Mission Friends, but the experience can never truly be put into words. When the Ebola crisis hit in 2014, my heart longed to be back with my people as I watched many of my friends on the front lines helping to control and stop the outbreak. Praise God for those who risked their lives to save others.
When I returned from Liberia at the end of 2007, I served as a youth minister for three years at my home church before attending Campbell University Divinity School to pursue a Master of Divinity degree. While in school, I served as the minister to senior adults at First Baptist Church in Clayton, North Carolina, a congregation that I consider my “first love” outside of my home church. After graduation from Campbell, I was given many great opportunities to preach before receiving the call from First Baptist Church on Fifth in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, which is where I currently serve as their associate pastor for children, senior adults, and pastoral care.
What have been the greatest challenges you have faced in your ministry journey?
Perhaps the greatest challenges I have faced in ministry relate to my gender, age, and marital status. I was very fortunate that my gender had relatively little impact on any of my ministry experience until these last five years. My eyes were opened when I learned that not everyone considers men and women equal when it comes to who God can use to share the love of Jesus, and quite frankly, that blows my mind! My age and marital status have gone hand-in-hand. I have watched other friends struggle in ministry until they were married, then congregations gave them a new level of respect and honored boundaries and expectations. Being a young, single woman has also proved challenging when it comes to finding safe spaces among friends to share life with. Folks my age are mostly married with families, so I learn to lean into each new day with eyes wide open as to how I can best experience community and sacred fellowship. In the midst of this challenge, I find so much joy in the sacred friendships cultivated over time and those friendships have been my rock throughout different stages of my ministry journey.
What have been some of your favorite moments in church ministry?
My absolute favorite moments in church ministry have been through the ministry of “prayer partners.” While serving at First Baptist Church Clayton, North Carolina, we started a ministry of partnering our senior adults with our children. They were challenged to pray for one another and through that ministry, we witnessed the power of Christian community in a way I had never experienced before. We saw God a little more clearly when we watched generations interacting. They supported one another through all sorts of big moments in life, whether that was the start of school, trying out for a sports team, or participating in worship. When a senior adult would pass away, the child serving as their prayer partner was right there building relationships with the family and offering up prayers for them. Intergenerational relationships in faith communities are my favorite things to witness and have proven to be a strong thread in congregations through all kinds of transitions.
Who has inspired you along the way as you have lived out your calling?
The list of folks who have inspired me is endless, but there are a few folks who stand out to me in a way that truly shape the way I do ministry:
- My mom (the best woman in the entire world!), has shown me unconditional love and grace, dedication to a local congregation, and faithful stewardship. She also took me to church even when it wasn’t easy to do (I may or may not have misbehaved quite a bit in worship when I was very young).
- Nancy Pryor, who has known me since I was born and served as my sixth-grade science teacher, taught me the importance of using words of affirmation and calling out the good in others. She also taught me the value in a good hand-written card and the power of doing the “simple things” in any local congregation, even when there is no recognition or affirmation for the work.
- Kendell and Bev Kauffeldt, country director and assistant senior programs manager, continue to inspire me with their years of work in Liberia and most recently their resilience in fighting the Ebola disease and helping people die with dignity in those horrific moments. They remind me that we are all called to stand up for others and serve them, especially when it is not easy.
- The senior adults of First Baptist Church, Clayton, North Carolina, who taught me how to stay young and always be open to doing a new thing because “you never know what God is up to, no matter how old you are!”
- Emily Hull McGee, my pastor, has shown me how to love well in all circumstances and not lose sight of the great Work of Love in this world. Thanks be to God!