Thursday, February 16, 2017

Missing Her Voice

Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, after our likeness, so they may rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move on the earth.”

     God created humankind in his own image,
     in the image of God he created them,
     male and female he created them.

Genesis 1:26-27 New English Translation

God spoke: “Let us make human beings in our image, make them
     reflecting our nature
So they can be responsible for the fish in the sea,
     the birds in the air, the cattle,
And, yes, Earth itself,
     and every animal that moves on the face of Earth.”
God created human beings;
     he created them godlike,
Reflecting God’s nature.
     He created them male and female. 
Genesis 1:26-27 The Message

I've been prayerfully wrestling with my calling the past couple week.  As a young teen, I felt a very clear call from God to ministry; but the only framework I had for such a calling was either to be a missionary overseas or some kind of counselor here.  Women couldn't be pastors.  Ok they could in some denominations, but even so there weren't very many of them.  I only recall meeting one or two during my family's traveling music ministry days.....and I could feel how uncomfortable it was for my Dad (who falls much closer to soft patriarchy than complimentarian in his views on women). But if I were a missionary, I could plant a church or pastor a church, or do any number of things overseas.  

Instead of that little girl's missionary dream, however, I am here at seminary pursuing a MDiv degree and eventually a Ph.D.  This week I invested most of my studying time to preparing my Rule of Life for the Spiritual Formation in Ministry class.  I had to wrestle through questions such as: 

What are my spiritual gifts?  
What are my natural talents?
What's the vision and mission for my life? (ie the thing I am most passionate about)

Now, I've wrestled with all these questions before, but it had actually been quite a while since I considered them all together in concert.  What does it look like for me to be a good steward of the gifts and calling God has given me?  Honestly, I was a bit surprised at what I discovered and how I felt about what I discovered.

My top gifts are administration, hospitality, and teaching/wisdom/knowledge.  
My greatest desire is to see women and men equally equipped and released to fulfill their callings in the world and in the Church.

I don't know about you but that sounds like it could be a pastoring kind of job to me.

I'm not at all certain that God is calling me to be a pastor, much less the lead pastor of a church; but this revelation suddenly hit me.  If I were to pursue a career that is something in the realm of pastoring, it would be so helpful to know some really solid women pastors!

Thankfully, I knew exactly who to talk to about this little revelation.  Part of the requirements for the Masters of Divinity degree at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary is Mentored Ministry, four semesters of involvement in a church or para-church ministry that gives you practical experience and the wise direction and counsel of a mentor there.  I'm supposed to make a plan this semester for all the kind of Mentored Ministry positions I want to experience over the next couple years.  I knew I needed help sorting out my options so I met with Dr. Singleton, the director of the Mentored Ministry program.

After hearing my story in brief and my latest conclusions about my gifts and vision for my life, Dr. Singleton shared that working with a woman pastor would be an excellent way for me to better understand that particular role and my own calling.  Unfortunately, he continued, there aren't many nearby.  If I could take the time to drive into the city I would find more; but up here there are only a few to choose from, and only one of them is a head pastor.  

As we continued to talk through my options I was struck by the thought that pastors play an important role in the lives of their congregants.  Theirs is a voice of authority, wisdom, instruction, and hope.  A woman's voice is different than a man's; it's not better or worse but it is different.  I've heard many authoritative male voices in my life, teaching me how to follow Jesus.  But I've heard few women.  I wonder how different the body of Christ would be, especially in the US during these days of political division, if we heard a woman's voice from the pulpit as often as a man's. I wonder how our perspective on the scripture would change.  I wonder how our actions might change.  I wonder how we as a Church might better reflect the image of God, since women are just as much made in that image as men, if woman and men equally shared the burden of pastoral leadership.

The need for women in pastoral leadership was evident to me this week when I attended a panel by three faculty on campus about "Forming Pastoral Identity."  All three faculty had been pastors for a number of years.  They had lots of experience and wisdom to share.  And they were all men.

I never knew until now how much I miss her voice: the voice of the woman pastor who should have been part of my spiritual upbringing.  I hope I will enjoy the privilege of hearing her voice soon.  Perhaps someday....her voice will be my voice.


Sunday, February 5, 2017

"I didn't know girls could go to seminary."

A little more than a year ago we told our church small group that we were moving away from Ithaca to attend seminary.  As we shared the story of how we came to that decision and it became clear that both Charles and I were going to be in the MDiv program my dear friend Heather looked confused.  She confessed,

"I didn't know girls could go to seminary."

Heather grew up in the church, has evident pastoral giftings, and is a passionate worship leader.  Her comment launched a discussion in our small group about women in the church, women in scripture, and the apparent lack of opportunity for them and their gifts to be developed in the church.  From that evening until this week something has been stirring in my heart that I couldn't quite verbalize until now.  

Heather, this blog is for you.

And for Jenn. . . And Bethany. . . And Debbie. . . And my Mom. . . And all the women in my life who never considered seminary, never even knew they could consider seminary, and don't know how it would be remotely possible to attend seminary.  My heart is stirred up for you to grow.  This blog will by no means replace the experience of seminary for you, but my hope is that here you can 

learn along with me and be inspired to keep learning, practicing, and growing in love for God and people

With that in mind, please please please comment and ask questions and (respectfully) dialogue with me and others here.  My goal is to share every week at least one thing that I learned or experienced.  Let's grow together!

I enjoyed this first week of classes, even if it was stressful to manage homework and home life (especially since Leo's been a little sick).  Charles and I are taking two classes together: Spiritual Formation in Ministry on Mondays and The Practice of Worship: Advanced Studies in Worship Planning, Leading and Congregational Formation on Thursdays.  I also have a one credit class on Mondays that is the introduction for the practical ministry training requirement here at Gordon-Conwell, Mentored Ministry.  

This week I want to share a few notes from our Spiritual Formation class with Dr. Pfizenmaier:


The average tenure of pastor is 5 years and most people leave the ministry within the first 5 years.  The question is: how deep are your roots?  Are you a beautiful tree with shallow roots?  Without deep roots in Christ, when the storms of ministry come you will be “blown right out of your shorts”.  Ministry is not easy.  When the tree falls, when the leaders collapse people are deeply injured.  The impact of the Gospel is injured.  Our witness is compromised.  The problem is a spiritual formation problem, a character problem. 
It’s not glorifying to Jesus to pretend you are Jesus.  
Christ did the surgery.  We have to do the PT (which is the work of sanctification).

Holiness is humility.
Two truths of our reality:  we are dirt and we are breath (the spirit of God is in us).
Humility is being in touch with our earthiness: being down to earth. My primary vocation is to become a holy person.  In order to become a holy person I must be spiritually formed. 


My question for you, my dear readers, this week is 
how are your roots?  What is something you want to work on to grow deeper spiritual roots this week?

And Heather, thanks for giving me permission to share this tiny part of your story.  I love you, and I'm so glad you're in my life!

Links to all Kim's sermons so far

Audio files of 3 sermons: Videos: