Every Friday, Baptist Women in Ministry features an interview with a fabulous minister on this blog. Today, we are excited to interview Lesley-Ann Hix Tommey. Lesley-Ann IS what a minister looks like!
Lesley-Ann, tell us about your ministry journey and the places and ways you have served and are serving.
While I was in seminary, I really thought I would be serving internationally as field personnel. I served in Chile for a summer through Student.Go, and I loved it. I loved being immersed in another culture and learning about church and how to minister in a context unfamiliar to me. But I also spent a lot of my seminary time volunteering with the after-school program at Park Avenue Baptist in Atlanta. There I noticed that my relationships and work seemed to engage my sense of calling just as strongly as being somewhere international. So I followed that desire to be in cross-cultural space and all that I learned from Park Avenue to Charlotte, North Carolina, where I lived in intentional Christian community at QC Family Tree, and I continued learning from neighbors and my fellow “radishes” (QC Family Tree’s name for their residents) about systemic racism and strategic disinvestment, resiliency, communal identity, community development, and neighborhood chaplaincy. QC Family Tree showed me the power of being rooted and listening deeply to community.
After my time at QC Family Tree, I got married, and moved to be with my husband in Virginia. Blake served as campus minister at University of Virginia for several years, and I worked at a school in Charlottesville. We moved to New York City in October 2017 after I was commissioned by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship in June of 2017. Our move to New York followed that same desire to be in cross-cultural relationships and ministry, to be joining ourselves with the abandoned and the broken of our world and to dig into community development.
In New York, I serve alongside the incredibly creative and compassionate community of Metro Baptist Church and Rauschenbusch Metro Ministries. I support them in their thirteen ongoing social service ministries, but my focus is on our Living Well program, a life skills program for women who have experienced both domestic violence and homelessness. We run a committed cohort every fall and spring semester, and our alumnae gather regularly throughout the year, including with a bi-weekly yarn circle. I am grateful to be creating safe space where truth telling is encouraged and communal healing can happen. I have learned a lot about trauma and caring for survivors of domestic violence in my two years in this position. I am learning to ask people what they need before assuming I know myself. I am learning to model healthy social interaction, consistently point out strengths and be a dependable presence. And I am learning how important it is to never give up on the women in our circles, to relentlessly show up in their lives, just as God chases after each of us.
What have been your greatest sources of joy in ministry?
The moments when relationships become trusted and sacred are the best moments. I’m so proud of the women in our groups, for all they accomplish and overcome. I’m constantly inspired by their stories and the way they nurture their own healing, so the moments when they come to me for guidance or accompaniment are really sacred moments for me. Being able to support them, show up for them and bear witness to their story is the greatest joy.
What have been the greatest challenges you have encountered in ministry?
The greatest challenge I have faced has been not being able to leave my work at work. I carry it with me. I carry the heartache and brokenness and abandonment. It’s too hard to put that aside when I lock my office at the end of the day. Plus, ministry is not 9-5; it’s constant. Being a pastor to a community feels like it means being present whenever they need me . . . even at 10 p.m. after I’ve just gotten home from working since 9 a.m. that day.
What is the best ministry advice you have been given?
Set boundaries, and don’t take it too seriously. I’m still learning how to set and protect my work-life boundaries. But I realize that burnout is real, so I’ve been working to listen better to myself and carve out time and space for renewing my body and spirit. Recognizing that ministry is also just a job helps remind me that it’s not all up to me, that I don’t have to act as if everything rests on what I do—I don’t have to save the world because Jesus has already done that. When I step away, God is still working.