Every Friday, Baptist Women in Ministry introduces a remarkable minister, and today we are so pleased to introduce Lee Ann Rathburn.
Lee Ann, tell us about your current ministry position.
I am a clinical pastoral education (CPE) supervisor, certified by the Association of Clinical Pastoral Education (ACPE), which is a long title that means that I teach and supervise ministers who are providing pastoral care in a clinical setting. The clinical setting that I happen to be working in is a large hospital system—Seton Healthcare Family—in Austin, Texas.
CPE is a model of education that puts the student in a context where they can consistently provide ministry to people in crisis or who are in some way in need of spiritual care. I don’t teach students the “right” thing to say or do in every pastoral care situation, but I teach them how to be the “right” person walking into a situation to provide care. Being an effective minister involves knowing oneself intimately—knowing how your past history informs your pastoral identity; knowing how to maximize strengths and manage limitations; and knowing how your faith and theology come to bear in a particular situation. CPE gives folks an opportunity to be engaged in ministry and to have supervision and a peer group as they reflect on who they are as pastor and person. I have students who come to CPE right after seminary to give themselves some time to live into the role of minister outside of the academic setting. I also have second-career ministers and experienced pastors who may want to be even more effective pastors or who may be discerning a change in ministry vocation.
What do you love most about serving as a CPE supervisor?
I love having the opportunity to journey closely with other ministers in formation. The CPE process was transformative for me as a woman minister. I had served part-time as a hospital chaplain while in seminary but had not had the support of a supervisor and peers who could help me reflect on and make meaning of my experience as a minister. I came out of my year of CPE residency knowing myself much better and feeling much more confident and competent to serve as a pastor in any ministry setting. As a CPE supervisor, I walk with others in this transformative process and get to bear witness to their growth in knowledge of self and pastoral care skills that will serve them wherever they land in ministry.
I did work as a hospital chaplain for a few years before becoming a CPE supervisor. I loved meeting people of faith and no faith in the hospital who might never walk into a church and yet who were struggling with questions of meaning and faith in the midst of their or their loved one’s health crisis. It felt like sacred ground to become an “intimate stranger” with people who may be having the worst day of their lives or may have just lost someone they loved very much. I do still visit patients with my students and continue to be amazed at how much I receive from seeing the strength, trust, and resilience of so many patients.
What are some of the challenges you have encountered along the way in ministry?
I had one failed ordination process in 1992 before landing at Second Baptist Church in Lubbock, Texas, where I felt fully supported as a minister and was ordained on August 29, 1993. My first ordination process was initiated by the pastor of a church that had never ordained a woman before. The pastor was convinced that as church members got to know me better they would be very open to ordaining me. I went along with him and gave my testimony in church, met with the deacons and other groups, and taught different Sunday School classes so that the congregation could get to know me. Along the way, it seemed like the congregation became very fearful about a shift in their theology regarding women in ministry and about the potential denominational and political ramifications for them if they ordained a woman. The process ended up becoming a mess, and I felt scapegoated. Thankfully, after I moved to Lubbock to work for Methodist Hospital, I discovered Second Baptist and experienced a positive and healing church family who embraced me and my gifts for ministry.
What practices and disciplines keep you renewed and refresh your spirit?
I try to do at least one silent, contemplative retreat a year—at least for a long weekend—if at all possible. I have a spiritual director who I used to see monthly but now see more from time to time. I also try to do daily meditation. I need the silence and stillness to bring me back to awareness of the “ground of my being” and to a centered perspective of being so deeply loved and accepted by God.