Season of pain?

Allyn and I will be sharing a two-month preaching gig starting January 1. The church is a First Baptist — a historical place that is apparently very proud of their conservative values. I suppose this means that this church will have quite a few differences from us. I’ve been told there may be some folks with strong opinions about women in ministry (in the “um, that shouldn’t happen” category). I’m honored to be perhaps the first regularly appearing woman preacher there. And I am floored at the opportunity to serve these people for a short time. I have wondered again and again if I have anything to share with a group of people who perhaps aren’t sure what they think about someone of my gender in a ministry role — and who may approach the Bible completely differently than I do, sometimes in ways that I find incredibly harmful.

Muriel, the area minister, said something incredibly wise, though. “We don’t get to choose who we minister to, we are just called to minister.” That is perhaps not an exact quote, but I think the idea is there. A person doesn’t have to look like me or think like me in order for me to minister to him/her. This church has been without a pastor a long time and, like any church in that position, bears some scars. I know how to love — and isn’t that what every minister is really called to? To love God’s people, wherever they may be found?

I’m finding that thinking about ministry during this holiday season is rough. People all around are hurting. At church on Sunday, I heard story after story of people facing all kinds of deeply painful things. This morning, I heard that a friend lost her father. At the same time, I’ve been meeting the newborn children of other friends. We spent a weekend of class with my dear friends Chad and Becki and their two-month-old Evie. This weekend, we met the not yet week-old baby of friends and Allyn’s coworkers Randy and Hannah. Joy and pain co-mingled in this season.

Pastor Samuel preached about that on Sunday. How Mary’s story wasn’t a fairy tale — in the midst of excitement over the coming child — God’s child — was an awful lot of pain. A not-yet-married woman pregnant? Scandalous! She couldn’t have been treated well — perhaps even by those who had been close friends. God came in the midst of loss, in the midst of pain. I trust that God will still do that today. That God will be among us not just in our joy, but in our pain. I trust that God can use two youngish seminarians to remind a conservative historical church that God is with them. And I trust that God can use that same church to remind me that God is often found in the most unexpected places. This season, may God’s peace abound in our hopes, our joys and our pains.

(photo credit)

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8 Comments

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8 responses to “Season of pain?

  1. Dear Jennifer,

    This is good news. What a wonderful opportunity for you, Allyn, and this congregation. All of you will be changed and challenged. You have been given the opportunity to come alongside them, love them, respect them, listen to them, while letting them see and learn about women in ministry through your wonderful presence. You are planting the seeds of future possibilties, and I believe you will do it well.

    May the hope, peace, joy and love of Christ prevail,

    Kathy Pickett

  2. Blessings on you both as you serve this church in the new year. I know the Lord will use you in ways that you probably can’t anticipate now. Thanks for sharing about the journey.

  3. johnnyfstoke

    Hi Jen ,
    I hope that you are well and thanks for a lovely piece that sums up the struggles of life and faith at this time. I lost my Father at Christmas when I was 23 and it still affects each christmas 28 years later. I’m also dipping into a book about the early church and from day one it seesm that human political agendas played a part so your work will follow a well trodden path.

    I will leave you with a lovely prayer that I have just read from my Advent Book and hope its sentiment supports and carries you through the hard times

    ” God of growth and love, may the little seed that you have planted in me bear much fruit . May the people I encounter come to know you by the words and actions of my love – a love that I first came to know by your words and actions . Prepare my soul for the coming of the Lord , and continue to have me serve you as an instrument of your love. I ask this through your son , Our Lord Jesus Christ . Amen”

    Peace go with you Sister

  4. June Seat

    Jennifer, I can’t say anything much different (or as well!) as your encouragers who have already responded. I appreciated the piece you wrote, and believe that your attitude and intention to love will win them over. Often after people come to know personally people who have different views on things, they will soften their opinions. I pray this will be a good experience for you all.

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