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.)
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.