Red: Blood, Fire, Pentecost, Holy Spirit, Ordination, Identity, Baptism, Call, Communion… at least that’s how the word association works in my mind. It’s messy. Life is messy. Ministry is messy. Writing helps me sort out some of the mess, which is part of the reason to have a blog. I can record thoughts, events, book lists, liturgies, and all of the other messy stuff that doesn’t seem connected to anything else at the movement. When I look back at what I wrote, sometimes I see a mess and sometimes I see a pattern or connections that I didn’t see at the time.
I look back at my journey into ministry around Pentecost. At the end of this post is my June 2019 newsletter article for Third Church, it’s a look back at the time I spent in that particular place. In preparation for writing the newsletter article, I looked back at a sermon I wrote for Pentecost last year (we recognize Pentecost on the Sunday after its actual liturgical date) and I looked back at my blog posts.
Nothing But the Blood of Jesus For me, Baptism is a way of being identified as a child of God. All children of God are loved and called into relationship with God and neighbors. Some of us are called in the ministry of Word and Sacrament. In my own messy mind, Baptism and Communion (the two sacraments celebrated in the protestant traditions) are about water and blood, and about life and death. And in a weird connection, my menstrual cup is also about water and blood, and about life and death. All of it is connected to the way I am called to live and die. I am not just called to love God and neighbors with my head or my heart, but with my whole being, my whole female being, blood and all. The more I am able to accept myself, my flaws and my strengths, my body and my soul, the more I am able to listen to and respond to my Baptism, my ordination, and God’s call.
The First Drop After being called and ordained, I sorted out my office and found that there was a call that I had not expected, Period Pastor. Everyone who enters ministry also enters an office or at least a desk that no one else knew what to do with. I am no exception. In the movie, The Intern, there is such a desk and the cleaning of that desk is a turning point. In cleaning my office, particular “I don’t know what to do with” items included patterns for menstrual pads. When I think back on that moment, I realize it was a turning point, the beginning of my call as period pastor, the call to engage in the messy work of advocating for access to menstrual health and hygiene and advocating for women’s voices to be heard in ministry.
I feel called to incorporate biblical women into preaching and teaching. There are a few poignant moments in this call. One of those was the question, Abigail Who? Followed by, why haven’t I heard of her before? I think these questions came from the person “finding” a hero and wishing she had been there sooner. I understood this kind of hurt more clearly on Easter. One of my heroes, Mary Magdalene was left out of worship, liturgy, and what felt like the whole Easter message. How does the one who first saw the resurrected Jesus, the one who was first to proclaim Christ risen, the apostle to the apostles, get left out of our retelling of Easter. Where is my hope now that my heroes are gone? When the first women preacher is ignored, what hope do the rest of us have? If my hero is ignored does that mean I am ignored? What does it mean to stand up for biblical women? What does it mean to stand up for women today?
The call to Be a Good Neighbor is a serious calling to Christians in Pittsburgh. We grew up with Mr. Rogers (a PCUSA minister) reminding us what being neighborly is about, love. I feel called to create a community in which women can share experiences openly and receive love and affirmation. Sometimes, that type of community needs a rationale or a unifying document that everyone can agree with like, It’s Important to Understand Why. I am seeing the beginnings of that community happening in the basement at Third Church where we are sewing menstrual pads and we are sewing our lives together.
I feel called to work in the context of a larger community. I see a divide in my corner of the world between women and the church. Unfortunately, it seems as though the church is a system that oppresses the rights of women. While that has not been my experience, it is the experience of many women, so much so that they are leaving the church. Some are leaving with their faith in God intact and others are not. This feels like a place where my voice might matter; my experience of feminism within a faith community might help others looking for that type of community. Faith and Feminism; Verses or With?
Who knows what the Holy Spirit will be up to this Pentecost: flames and doves, blood and water, identity and baptism, call and communion, the hot bloody mess and the peace that surpasses all understanding; all of these are part of the life and work of the children of God.
As promised, a reflection for Third Church:
John 14:15-17, 25-27
15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. 17 This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.
25 “I have said these things to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.
Pentecost (June 9, 2019) is a liturgical day on our church calendar that reminds us to think about how the Holy Spirit is moving in and among us. It is a day in which we might look back on the previous year and think of the work that has been done and to also look forward into the next year and pray that the spirit continues to lead us. It is a day for many pastors in which we remember our ordination because ordination is the only event other than Pentecost that has the liturgical color of red. Remembering an ordination is like remembering your baptism. We’ve talked about that before. It is about remembering who God is and who he has called us to be. We are all called.
In the transitional process we have remembered who we were, recognized who we are, and begun the discernment process for who we will be. I am excited to see what the Holy Spirit will do in our midst. Excited and anxious, or somewhere in between. Two years ago, our word was “liminal”, last year our word was “transitional” and this year, I our word will be “called”.
We will call a senior pastor, likely before next Pentecost. It might feel like a relief, or it might not, but if I have learned anything in this process, I know it will be somewhere in between. I hope we aren’t so relieved at the senior pastor’s arrival that we stop doing the difficult work of being a community lead by the spirit. I have seen many leaders emerge over the last year, and so many people stepping into new roles and responsibilities. I hope that doesn’t stop. I hope we recognize that each of us is called to be a disciple and called to be this community we know as Third Church. At the interim training, I learned that all ministry is transitional, and I believe that all ministry is transformational. The Holy Spirit is never really done with us. At Credo, we talk about going through stages, Identity, Discernment, Practice, Transformation, and relapse. The work continues. We are still called no matter what stage God is leading us through. We are called because we are the beloved children of the living God.
Each year at Pentecost, I put on my favorite stole. It is the stole my mother slid onto my pew 10 minutes after my ordination service began. She, and the other members of Sharon Church, were running late, many of them being nervous about driving to this side of town in the rain. I didn’t know what to do with the stole, the plan was to wear it, but it felt odd to slip it on in the middle of the service. Trip saw my face discerning what to do, and at the end of the service he picked up the stole and symbolically put it on me, not planned or perfect, but maybe more meaningful than if it had been planned. And that is what I see ministry as, not planned or perfect, but transformational. So, when I worry about things not being planned or perfect, I remember that moment, and my heart is not troubled, nor am I afraid, for I have the peace of Christ, the Holy Spirit, living within me.