Today I worked on a wedding ceremony, participated in a webinar about multigenerational worship, attended a Zoom meeting about a community event to address the needs of the unhoused, prepared for Bible study, made arrangements to help a member of our larger church community...
Seven years ago today I was ordained into Christian ministry, surrounded by family, friends, colleagues in ministry, mentors, and the church that loved me and let me love them.
In one sliding door future, I might have been ordained 11 or 12 years ago. In another, I may not have been ordained at all. But the journey I took, which is the only one I can imagine for myself, brought me to that church in that moment and has brought me here to this moment and 7 years of ordained ministry.
It is a journey that had its detours and its scenic routes and its treacherous passes and sign posts that pointed me to the next right thing.
There are lots of ways I could remember this anniversary, a lot of ways I could reflect on the last seven years but the words that are bubbling up in me today are simple:
I have often heard how isolating ministry can be, and I have experienced that firsthand. But I have also been blessed by communities, mentors, colleagues, friends, family, and church members who have kept me company along the way.
Thank you to my parents who, despite sometimes wondering why I didn't want to go into a more lucrative career, have supported me unconditionally.
Thank you to the ministers who ministered to me as child, as a youth, as a college student and affirmed my place in the church.
Thank you to camp counselors and directors who modeled love, acceptance, and fun and helped me be brave enough to step into their shoes.
Thank you to mentors and professors who helped me name when church life was unhealthy, who challenged me to get out of my comfort zone, who held doors open for me so I could experience new things.
Thank you to the congregation that welcomed me into their pews when no where felt like home, until they became home. To the families, the youth who sparked within me a desire to build relationship and community, to serve and who taught me more than I ever could teach them.
Thank you to those who were there when I started finding my way back after life threw a curveball. Who pointed me back to the path of ministry without pushing, who were the whispers of the Spirit in my ear.
Thank you to the classmates that became friends across internet connections and lagging pre-Zoom video conferencing. Who gave me a model of community that was not defined by geography.
Thank you to the professors that reminded me why I love learning and affirmed my gifts for leadership and ministry.
Thank you to the colleagues joined around the church office table to talk lectionary texts and preaching and welcomed my voice even when it was hesitant and unsure.
Thank you to the church members who told me every Sunday they were praying for me. Who looked towards my ordination with pride and sorrow in equal measures.
Thank you to the Bethany community and leadership that welcomed me into its fold and has been a source of affirmation, challenge, support, and hope. For friendships that pick up where they left off every time we meet and for friendships that are there all the time to celebrate and lament in equal measures.
Thank you to the congregation that said yes to me 6 years ago, and has kept saying yes. For the prayers, the words of affirmation, for the opportunity to stretch and grow and try new things. For the staff that has worked alongside me in partnership.
Thank you to the colleagues and community members who have connected me to the ministry happening outside church walls.
Thank you for the gift of the Spirit and the way God has worked through, with, around, and in spite of me.
Thank you doesn't seem enough to recognize not only those who have supported my ministry for the last seven years but also all the years before that made my ordination possible. But those are the words I have.
...Except these words of prayer and blessing that I borrow and slightly modify from the sermon a wise woman preached at my ordination service:
May God give you insight and hope for that journey. And may God grant those of us who can only imagine the challenges facing the Church of Jesus Christ, the willingness to give of our resources to insure a foundation from which we all may minister to a fragmented and hurting world.
*Blog post title thanks to Rev. Jolin McElroy