Each week, Baptist Women in Ministry introduces an amazing minister and this week we are thrilled to introduce Erin Walker Lysse.
Erin, tell us about your ministry journey and the places and ways you have served.
I first sensed a call to ministry when I was in college and had no specific job title in mind. My education at McAfee School of Theology at Mercer University exposed me to a variety of jobs in ministry, for which I am grateful. After school, I accepted an invitation to be camp pastor for Passport, Inc. at one of their summer youth camps. In that work, I experienced community with other ministers, a meaningful sense of spiritual presence while preaching, and a rich sense of myself as preacher and camp pastor.
My work at camp led to four years of ministry and admissions counseling at Wingate University, a camp host. I ministered alongside Dane Jordan in campus ministries, and learned the value of mentoring relationships. I also had the privilege of helping the university consider its relationship with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, CBF in North Carolina, and the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. As I ministered with current students and counseled potential students through the admissions process, I also got to travel to work with Baptists around the state and the country.
After a few years in higher education, I sensed a call to local church ministry and was delighted to serve Union Cross Baptist Church as minister to families for seven years. Ministry at Union Cross gave me long-term pastoral relationships in which to engage and grow, worship leadership and preaching opportunities, and many ways to know myself as pastor, teacher, director, and leader.
As I ministered, I also had a desire to take a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE). I entered the CPE process in 2013 at Wake Forest University Baptist Health, and continue my journey there as a Supervisory Education Student.
What have been your greatest joys in ministry?
Connecting with my story, the story of another person or community, and with the sacred story of creation and redemption gives me great joy. One patient I knew at the hospital was a new mother who was dying just days after giving birth to her first child, a daughter. There was deep pain in her story. And there was great joy in her meeting her daughter. My own grief over the death of my mother when I was a young girl was present in my time with this patient. The great joy I found was in the connection we made in the few weeks she and I knew each other, in the deep sharing and sense of accompaniment therein, and in the possibility of healing in grief that knows hope. In many ways along my journey in ministry, I have found connection through relationship, a deep sense of being accompanied, and the possibility of healing or wholeness to be sources of great joy.
What challenges have you encountered along the way?
Being a minister can feel like an isolating way of being in the world. Though I have often felt accompanied by God in love, grace, and generosity of God’s Spirit, I have also felt lonely in the work of doing ministry. Friends and family are supportive of my sense of call, but cannot always relate to what it is like to minister. Friends and family who also minister sometimes feel distant, either geographically or because of our shared busyness. I have struggled with letting others be deeply part of my journey because I get focused on the tasks at hand or because I get stuck in my head about how different my work is or feels from the work others engage in the world.
What is the best ministry advice you have ever received?
I am learning to trust that who I am and my story are my best tools for ministry. It matters that what I know about God has context – shape and form – particular to my life experience. My ability to be present with another from within that context opens the possibilities of love, grace, wholeness, and God knows what else, between another person and me. As I minister, my relationship with God, my awareness of myself, and my connections with others guide and sustain me.