Wednesday, April 25, 2012–This past Sunday, April 22, was the 33rd anniversary of my ordination. I was ordained at Emmanuel Congregational Church, UCC, in Massena, NY, where I was serving as Director of Christian Education at the time. I was 27 years old. When I look at the pictures from that day, I can hardly believe why they would have ordained someone who looked like she could have been in the Youth Group! So young!
I hope that somewhere along in those 33 years I have modeled or written or spoken something worth saying or doing, but I know that the people and communities with whom I’ve served have taught and given me infinitely more. Like the Roman Catholic nuns and sisters in Christ in Massena, who rejoiced in my ordination and taught me what it means to stand on behalf of others. Or Msgr. Floyd Brown, also in Massena, who, when I was almost due to give birth to Meredith, prayed over me the prayer to St. Gerard, the patron saint of laboring mothers. And of course the people of Emmanuel Congregational Church, who, though I was fresh out of seminary and full of feminist theology and opinions about what ministry was about, supported me in my quest for ordination. They graciously listened to my early sermons and forgave me.
The first churches I served as pastor were the United Methodist Church of Waddington, NY and the Congregational Church of Louisville, NY, about 13 miles apart along Route 37. I stood in the pulpit, but they were the real ministers, teaching me along the way what it meant to love and care for each other in a small community where there was no escape from one another’s foibles, quirks, annoying habits, and blessings.
Meredith’s birth was greeted and anticipated and celebrated by no less than 5 different church communities which Bruce and I served between us during the 5 years we lived outside of Massena, and she was even given a Mohawk name (as was Alex later on) by the grandmother of the tribe on the Akwesasne reservation. What a lesson in “family”!
Our children had their first friends and school experiences in Oswego, NY, where Bruce served Trinity United Methodist Church. It was there that I learned what it meant to be a mom– truly one of my deepest learnings!–as well as what it meant to be a mom who also works outside the home. As I supplied churches parttime, as well as a stint as campus minister at SUNY Oswego, I learned how invaluable quality childcare is and what a ministry little ones can have with elders and college students alike.
It wasn’t until I went to Fairmount Community Church in Syracuse that I remotely felt like I had any idea of what I was doing, but I had infinitely more to learn from PV George, the senior pastor there, and the good people of that congregation about what it means to be in ministry. PV was a man of such deep faith and years of experience, and it has really only been years later, serving on my own, that I’ve come to fully appreciate his wisdom and witness. Syracuse was also a classroom in urban ministry, with its particular challenges and possibilities. Some of the most compelling and life-changing experiences there involved the resettlement of refugee families–from Cambodia, Iraq, and the Balkans. I shall be ever grateful to the folks of FCC who affirmed my ministry and shared their lives with me.
And now I am well into my 17th year at Second Congregational Church, with some of the best teachers I could ever hope for. Reflection on lessons learned here should probably wait for another time, but suffice it to say it is a humbling, wonderful, ever-growing privilege to serve here.
33 years. As Dag Hammersjold wrote, “For all that has been, thanks. For all that will be, yes.”