Every Friday, Baptist Women in Ministry features an interview with an amazing minister. Today we are thrilled to introduce Maria Robertson. Maria IS what a minister looks like!
Maria, tell us about your call to ministry and the journey to embrace your call.
Like any good Baptist, I was raised in the church. As a child I participated in Awana, Girls in Action, Vacation Bible School, Discipleship Now, local mission trips, and more. My church experience was more expansive then than it is now. My love and commitment to God, the Church, and its people steadily grew through high school and into college.
In college, I unexpectedly came face-to-face with a piece of my calling when I became a Social Worker. The needs of children, families, and broken systems shook me to my core. I encountered people and issues that stirred in me questions of faith. I felt compelled to seek answers to these questions about who God was in the midst of pain and suffering. Why did I get to grow up in such a loving family and community while others grew up befriending abandonment and abuse? I began asking God, “What are you going to do about this?” It was as if God held up a mirror and deflected the question back at me.
After months of arguing with God, I found myself applying to seminary and moving to Atlanta all in the span of two weeks! Seminary was not something I had ever planned on doing. It was not even something I thought a woman could do. In seminary my eyes were opened to my naïve ways of thinking, my privileged ways of living, and my limited ways of believing. I was aware that seminary might fracture my faith, but what I did not expect was for the broken pieces to gather like a beautiful stained-glass window. From this window, my calling began to take shape.
A single unit of CPE (Clinical Pastoral Care) at Northside Hospital Atlanta was all it took for me to fulfill a course requirement in order for me to graduate. It was also all it took to realize that I had once again unexpectedly come face-to-face with a piece of my calling. This time, however, it invited me to claim my voice, pastoral authority, and identity as a chaplain. Now, two years later, I am approaching the end of my second-year residency at Northside Hospital and could not be happier with the opportunities I have had to serve patients, families, and staff.
What have been the greatest challenges you have encountered in ministry?
These past two years as a chaplain have not been easy, but they have been rewarding. The greatest challenge I had was learning that some instances call for me to focus on “being” rather than “doing” so much. I had to learn that the Holy Spirit is always at work and that it would be foolish for me to think that I have the answer for those engulfed by grief. Simply being present goes a long way, folks. I also learned the hard way that self-care is serious business. Offering compassion and loving-kindness to myself is just as important as extending it to others.
What have been your greatest sources of joy in ministry?
The greatest sources of joy in my experience as a chaplain are intricately paradoxical. In moments of great sorrow, pain, and distress we have the opportunity to experience an overwhelming sense of peace, comfort, and clarity. Hope intertwines itself in, out, and all around our disbelief like a ball of yarn. The grief process encourages us to slowly unravel the tightly knotted sections of ourselves and weave them gently into a new design. Lastly, (or until I can write an entire piece on chaplaincy) I have found considerable joy meeting people I never would have encountered otherwise and hearing their stories. What a pleasure it is to encounter the Holy, the Divine, and the Light in places we least expect it.