Each week, Baptist Women in Ministry introduces an amazing minister. This week, we are thrilled to introduce Courtney Stamey.
Courtney, tell us about your ministry journey and the places and ways you have served and are serving.
I did not grow up Baptist. In fact, as crazy as it sounds, I chose to be Baptist as an adult. After growing up in the Christian and Missionary Alliance denomination, and feeling a distinct call to vocational ministry, I floated around for a bit. By the time I began Divinity School, I had visited many denominations. There were some Baptist churches in that mix, including serving a brief stint as a summer youth and children’s minister at a small Baptist church in rural South Carolina. But, I decided to be Baptist for two reasons. First, I believed in Baptist founding principles. They were something that I could dig into and ground myself in. Principles like religious liberty, soul freedom, and the priesthood of all believers were things that resonated with who I was becoming as a Christian and as a minister. Second, I fell in love with a particular church. At First Baptist Church, High Point, North Carolina, I felt needed, welcomed, and loved. It was the place that would later identify, support, and bless my ministerial gifts. It was the place where I was ordained, in an interim nonetheless. I was ordained by the people, what’s more Baptist than that?
Upon the completion of my MDiv at Wake Forest University, I was unsure of the next step in my call. So, I intentionally took a year of discernment as I completed a CPE Residency in a hospital with a very active trauma service. It was not the quietest place for discernment, but it was a place that shaped and formed me into a more self-aware, more holistic, and more courageous minister. It was during this year that I felt more of a calling to congregational ministry. So I began my search process and I was informed of the opening for the Pastoral Residency at First Baptist Church of Greensboro in partnership with Peacehaven Community Farm. I was not sure how the “farm thing” would work. I knew nothing from farming aside from the 6’x3’ garden my family kept for a couple years. That little garden patch had since gone fallow and so had my green thumb, but the position made sense. Our world is growing continually divided, and our churches smaller in number. Yet, here was this position, a “bi-vocational” pastoral residency. This position realized that ministerial work does not exist solely in the church, and it recognized that collaboration with an existing church mission partner need not be only money or an annual event where the church goes. The position seemed to be aware of the current challenges of our world and the opportunities of our future.
Functionally, it plays itself out in this way. I spend two of my days at the farm working in a non-profit chaplain role. The majority of my time there is spent in an accompaniment role with adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. I also do things like group reflection with caregivers, one-on-one pastoral care, and sometimes even picking vegetables. Peacehaven Community Farm is just as much about growing relationships and an alternative worldview as it is about growing spinach and squash. Three days a week, I spend my time at the church. I participate in worship leadership, co-facilitate a young adult small group, visit the homebound, and work on a couple of projects that I have chosen (like a revamp of our Wednesday Night Activities). More than anything, at both places, I get to be creative. I get to try new things, stretch myself, and further discern my call.
This is what I hope I can have the courage to do when my two year residency is finished. I hope that no matter where I follow the call of that mysterious, and sometimes mischievous, Holy Spirit that I will be creative, try new things, stretch myself, and continue to discern the call.
What have been your greatest sources of joy in ministry?
One of my greatest sources of joy in ministry are the one-on-one conversations. These may be with homebound members, patients in the hospital, or Core Members at the farm. I think that these are some of the most sacred of moments, when we sit in the presence of another and try our best to see the image of God in them. What makes it so joyful is that in those moments I really feel like a pastor and there have been moments in my life when that felt like something I could not be because of my gender. It is joyful because when I exercise my vocation in this way, I feel whole.
What have been your greatest sources of challenge in ministry?
What continues to be a challenge for me are unrealistic expectations. I place most of these expectations on myself. This was a challenge for me before I entered into ministry, but it feels even greater sometimes. Have I put in enough hours? Am I doing enough justice work to confront the systems of our world? Am I equally invested in both halves of my bi-vocational ministry? I think that the expectations feel greater because in ministry all sorts of folks place expectations and project their own images of what a minister could be or should be on their ministers. Communicating expectations with my supervisors and seeking from support from places like my BWIM Mentoring group have made this a more manageable challenge. Ultimately, what I am working on is offering myself the grace that God has already given me
Who has inspired you along the way in this ministry journey?
So many wonderful people have inspired me in ministry. First, my spouse Michael, who is my biggest support and advocate, day in and day out. Then there are my professors and mentors from Gardner-Webb University, Wake Forest University, and my growing community in the Triad of NC. Also, my peers, particularly the women who are following their call in ministry even when the road is particularly rocky and narrow.
However, the most influential person in my ministry journey in particular, and my life in general, was my maternal grandmother, Anne Bradford. She passed away last year, but her legacy and the lessons she taught me carry me through. She had the ability to stop you in your tracks with a one-liner. And these were not mere platitudes but deep wisdom from decades of walking with Jesus. No matter how well I knew her, she always seemed to surprise me. She was the one who led me to Christ, she was one of the first to completely affirm my call, she was the one who I would practice all my sermons on, and she was the one who challenged me to always follow Jesus. As I was considering my current position, it meant that my spouse and I would be at different churches for the first time, worshipping under different steeples on Sunday. So, I called my mother (who always puts it on speaker) and asked her opinion. My grandmother piped up in the background and said, “Tell Coco (her nickname for me), that I need to talk with her tomorrow.” I usually knew that kind of request came with an opinion that was different than my own, so I was nervous when I called the next day. But when we talked she simply said this, “Coco, keep following Jesus, he hasn’t steered you wrong yet.” When the way forward looks foggy or it seems like I have lost my way, I remember that line, “Coco, keep following Jesus, he hasn’t steered you wrong yet.”