Leadership & Being Faithful

I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. – Joshua 1:9

It can be exciting but also challenging to begin a new adventure: moving to a new place, starting a new job, and meeting new people. But as people of faith we trust that wherever we go, God will be there. This summer I, along with several other young adults, had the opportunity to put our faith into action through the Ministry Summer Service program of the Youth and Young Adult Ministry Office.

At the beginning of the summer I was a little nervous about what this experience would have in store. In June all of the MSS interns began our internships with a five-day orientation at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, IL. At one point each intern was asked to share something about which we were nervous or anxious. I remember sharing that I feel such a strong pull towards college chaplaincy and campus ministry…and I was afraid that my experience in MSS would change the direction of my call to pastoral ministry! While that would be exciting, it would also be challenging and sort of scary to imagine a change like that. (But the Holy Spirit works like that, doesn’t she?) Well now that my 10 weeks of MSS is over, I can hardly believe it went by so quickly. And I have nothing but positive things to say about my experience and about pastoral ministry as a whole.

As I’ve shared before, I was blessed to serve at the Elizabethtown Church of the Brethren in Elizabethtown, PA. Looking back, one of my most important lessons this summer was finding confidence and trusting in my authority as a young, female minister. This was something that my MSS mentor, Pastor Pam Reist, and I discussed at the beginning of the summer, and it was a repeated theme throughout my experience. As a personal project, I lead a book discussion for a group of 8 women on readings from the interfaith anthology Women, Spirituality, and Transformative Leadership: Where Grace Meets Power. This small group was truly a blessing, and it was made up of women from all areas of life: a twentysomething newlywed, young mothers, women with children in college, retired women. Each of these women defined leadership in a different way yet our conversations revolved around the feminine aspects of leadership and what women bring to the table that is unique and needed. So even though I am always seeking to improve in my abilities as a leader, my 10 weeks at ECOB was an affirming exercise in finding my place of authority and confidence as a minister and learning to trust in that authority more each day. (To continue in this personal exploration, I recently purchased Beyond the Stained Glass Ceiling: Equipping and Encouraging Female Pastors by Christine A. Smith, a book about women in ministerial leadership. It’s on my To-Read List.)

Pastor Pam and I after my sermon on July 27. I was blessed to have Pam as my mentor.

Pastor Pam and I after my sermon on July 27. I was blessed to have Pam as my mentor.

Yet almost or perhaps most importantly, I learned that pastoral ministry, being invited into people’s most special and vulnerable times, is truly a privilege and an honor. This summer I was present for and participated in an anointing before a surgery, two funeral services, post-surgery prayers, end-of-life blessings in a nursing home and a hospice, communion both in worship and for a shut-in, and many other moments of vulnerability, connection, and community. The pastor has a unique role in the Christian community and I firmly believe that if I were to serve as a pastor of a Brethren congregation, it would be both a challenging and rewarding ministry. In the end, I must only seek to be faithful to God’s call, wherever it might lead me.

I am thankful for Ministry Summer Service and the gift it offers young, emerging leaders in the Church of the Brethren.

P.S. By the way, I did preach over the summer as part of my internship experience. If you’d like to listen to my sermon from July 27, the link is here.

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Walking the Path of Nonviolence from Boston to Myanmar

“Life always begins one step outside of your comfort zone.” – Shannon L. Alder

Even though the summer is not yet over, I’ve had January on my mind recently. Why you ask? Because I have some exciting news to share about January 2015: I have been accepted for a two-week intensive course called “Walking the Path of Nonviolence in Myanmar: Buddhist and Christian Approaches.” This opportunity to study in Myanmar (also known as Burma) is made possible by connections of Andover Newton Theological School, and I will travel with two faculty members and 10-15 other seminary students, spending a little over two weeks learning about interfaith relations and nonviolent resistance in one of the poorest South Asian countries.

We will primarily learn in Yangon (Rangoon) at the Myanmar Theological Institute and their Peace Study Center and Judson Center for Interfaith Relations. The readings and life of Aung San Suu Kyi, a Burmese Nobel Peace Prize winner, will be a rich source of inspiration for our immersion. Additionally we will spend time at the Pwo Kayon Seminary, a seminary of the Karen people, one of the most persecuted ethnic groups in the country. And finally we will stay a few days and nights in a Theravada Buddhist Monastery sharing in the life of the monks there and practicing Vipasanna insight meditation.

Overall this promises to be an unforgettable experience and the most unique and challenging course in my theological education. Of course it will include uncomfortable, unusual and difficult moments, but this opportunity to step outside of my comfort zone will most certainly add a depth to my seminary experience that I am unlikely to gain anywhere else. I am early anticipating January 2015, but in the meantime I have some important steps to take.

Throughout the fall the students and faculty of this course will meet to prepare for the trip, discuss how to prepare and what to expect, and make sure all of our paperwork and travel information is organized. We will read books and articles about the history of Burma and relations with Buddhists and Christians in this part of the world in anticipation of our experience. In addition to preparing for this immersion physically, spiritually, and mentally, we must also prepare financially.

This course involves an additional course fee that includes airfare, lodging, meals, travel in Myanmar and other expenditures. While there is some financial aid available through Andover Newton, I do have to cover a significant portion of the cost, and as you can imagine, being a seminary student isn’t exactly a lucrative career.

Would you prayerfully consider supporting me as I fundraise for this immersion opportunity? Any financial donation, large or small, can bring me one step closer to experiencing firsthand the walk of nonviolence in Myanmar.

If you feel led, click here to support this once-in-a-lifetime educational opportunity: https://www.youcaring.com/seganosmyanmar

A friend of mine recently heard that I would be traveling to Myanmar to study nonviolent resistance among Buddhists and Christians, and she responded, “The more people we have in the world studying nonviolence, the closer we get to actually achieving a culture of peace.” I wholeheartedly agree. Thank you for thoughtfully and prayerfully considering making a donation to support this unique and unforgettable opportunity.