Commission on Ministry- Passed!

A smile from ear to ear is plastered on my face as I write this: Andrew and I were approved for ordination by the Eastern Region Commission on Ministry! We flew to Boston with 36 hours notice for our final interview.

Originally, we planned to skype into the interview, but the COM experienced last minute technical difficulties that required us to be there in person (thank goodness for credit cards!).

Every dollar was worth it. Every hour taken off from work was worth it. We were accepted by the Northeast Region as Candidates for ministry! After nearly a decade of discernment for both of us, we received an invitation to walk through the next open door to ordination.

A million dreams becoming real. A future, distant goal becoming reality.

The interviews were separate. We each met with the Commission on ministry for a little under an hour. We talked about the arc of our in-care process. We discussed the challenges we anticipate in ministry. We re-stated our vocational callings.

After each interview, we were asked to leave the room. When we returned into the interview room, the leader of the COM simply said, we unanimously voted you forward to ordination, congratulations!

As we left the interview site, the COM left us with this blessing and charge: the only thing left to do is plan your ordination ceremony!

We’re ready. We’re excited. We’re full of glee.

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Field Education

I’m now a field education supervisor.

Today I learned that I will be supervising a field ed practicum for a student at Memphis Theological Seminary. After meeting with D. for the first time today, I flashed back to all of my meetings with field education supervisors. How can I supervise a graduate student already? The tables have turned so quickly I am still catching my breath.

In our first meeting, I set learning objectives with D. I set an action plan with her. My previous jobs in experiential education prepared me for this initial meeting. I never thought my past experience would be relevant in ministry.

D. and I plan to meet once a month. She said our meeting was helpful. I silently thought to myself “good, because I’m going in blind!”. We’ll see how this field ed placement turns out.

Personally, I enjoyed adding another layer to my Lindenwood experience. How many layers can there be? I feel like I’m in a profession with endless learning moments. Who said I could be so lucky? Feeling blessed.

Regional Assembly

In late October, Andrew and I drove to Regional Assembly for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Nashville. We woke up early Saturday morning and caught a ride with my senior pastor. We left in the dark. We drove for 3.5 hours. We anticipated meeting all of the friendly ministers from Tennessee. For us, this was a great adventure. Our first regional Assembly. Our debut in our new region.

The assembly attracted about 100 ministers, give or take. We met for worship in the morning. We heard from the regional minister about our recent progress. We watched three inspirational preachers receive awards. Then, we split into men’s and women’s fellowship for lunch.

My experience over lunch certainly stands out as a highlight. I sat with great women from Tennessee and listened as they shared stories from the Disciples frontier.

The best part about our lunch came at the end when beautiful Reverend Verzola from Mississippi Boulevard Church in Memphis delivered a sermon. She brought down the house. She preached with such soul, such spirit, such life! I came away thinking: I have to know her.

Andrew and I returned from Regional Assembly with new connections. We came back to Memphis ready to out our new information about our region and our denomination into action.

The journey in Memphis continues.

Care for Creation Tip #1

After browsing the suggestions for ‘greening’ our church on GreenFaith’s website, I asked if I could start a ‘Care for Creation’ section of our newspaper. November is the first month that my ‘Care for Creation’ tip ran in the newspaper! I decided to write a tame, gentle tip for environmental justice because Lindenwood has yet to prioritize eco-theology and environmental action. We use styrofoam cups. We do not recycle anything (not even the 1000 orders of worship!).
This was my gentle tip for November:


Happy are those… who hope in the Creator, who mad heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them- Psalm 146

When I see the beautiful bright green leaves on the sturdy oak trees in my yard, contrasting with the rich brown soil and golden sun, I see heaven. I see the gentle care given by our Creator as trees and soil and sun were made. I see the tenderness of the sweet Spirit as look closely at the tiny veins that run through each leaf. Always remember God’s grace and care and generosity. This month’s Care for Creation Tip is simply to appreciate God through plants. Add a potted plant to your desk. Purify the air in your office with this steady oxygen-producer. Pause every day to relish in the grace of the Creator. Email me once you buy your office plant, I’d love to hear about it! Email: Sarah.Taylor-Peck@lindenwood.netI had no idea if my green tip would inspire anyone or change anything at Lindenwood, until, I received the following email today:

I work at keeping Lynda’s plants healthy. About a year ago, a geranium began growing in a Christmas cactus. We left it there. It seeks the sun and blooms year round. We were given another geranium last spring. I kept it outside and it barely survived. I have brought it in and it is recovering nicely. Some of the Christmas Cacti are pink and some are white. The pink is in bloom a little early.

I don’t know all the names yet, but we have 4 plants on an old Singer sewing machine base. Water and a little pruning have kept them healthy.


Bob

Success! I reached at least one. Bob attached 3 pictures of his house plants to his email. This small victory is just one more reminder of the grace and generosity I experience in my position every day. Amen!

Gather at the River

Lindenwood Christian Church sent me to the Gather at the River Conference in Memphis this September. Three hundred people of faith met at the conference to think of new ways to bring ecotheology to our places of worship. I met amazing minds. I learned incredible facts and figures that tug at my heart. To follow up from this experience, I wrote an article for the Lindenwood newspaper. I continue to gently push the idea of a green church in my work here in Memphis. Andrew and I have so much work to do.
Here is my article:

Gather at the River
“Brothers, sisters let’s go down… down to the river to pray.”

Oliver is one of the great loves of my life.

He is like love incarnate in a tiny feline body. On nights when my mind races with no relief, his presence at the foot of my bed brings me peace and comfort. He teaches me what it looks like to love with my full heart and forgive without reservations.

Many of us have experienced God through nature.

We know eternity in our souls when we look across the curve of the ocean.

We know depth of all depth when we stare into the canyon of a mountain range.

We know ceaseless love when we connect with the pure soul of a pet.

Reverend Fletcher Harper, president of Green Faith, works with church communities to incorporate care for creation into church ministry. Harper’s work shows that nearly everyone has experienced God in nature, but few of us have ever shared these experiences with each other. In his work, he often speaks with people about their experiences. He notes that people come alive when they describe feeling God’s grace through encounters with creation. Fletcher Harper was one of the many dynamic speakers at the recent Gather at the River Conference in Memphis.

On Friday, September 24th, three hundred people of faith met at Bridges USA to launch the conference. On Friday evening, Sally Isom, Brenda Hale, Jane Grimes, Kate Korzekwa, and Dallas, Kathy and Andi Minner joined me to learn from this conference. We all came with questions, concerns, and hope for the Mississippi River.

Perhaps we learn a little bit more about our tender Creator when we connect with our beautiful earth. So, what is our role in protecting the fragile parts of God’s masterpiece?

In Memphis, many of us cherish the Mississippi. This beautiful river flows nearly 2,500 miles. We take pride in our piece of North America’s largest river system. We river lovers might connect with the Mississippi through the adventure Huck Finn created in Mark Twain’s novel. Or, perhaps we appreciate the historic significance of the Mississippi in American commerce. In Memphis, we know this river like an old friend. Throughout the conference we celebrated the richness of the Mississippi and worried over its fragility. Parts of our river are dying along with our planet’s shrinking natural resources.

At the conference, we learned about issues around agricultural runoff into the Mississippi, silt trapped in dams along the waters, and shrinking eco-diversity among fish and wildlife in the river. In a shocking keynote address, author John Berry said that an area of land the size of a football field falls into the ocean every 45 minutes outside New Orleans because of the lack of sediment passage down the Mississippi. Many speakers articulated the importance of taking on issues of environment protection in the Church.

The Mississippi River is not the only body of water in trouble. Plastic garbage in the ocean kills more than 100,000 marine mammals like porpoises and sea otters each year. In places like Mozambique, most citizens do not have direct access to clean drinking water.

Beyond our struggling water, we can see the effects of pollution on land, too. We live in a world where breathing the polluted air in Cairo is equal to smoking 20 cigarettes in one day. In Boston, Massachusetts, 450 people die each year prematurely, because of diesel pollution in the city limits. On our planet, 27,000 species become extinct every year due to habitat loss.

What is our role in caring for creation?

At the Gather at the River Conference, we learned that many churches participate in caring for the earth as ministry and mission. Some churches participate in energy audits of their sanctuaries to determine where they can cut energy bills while conserving resources. Some churches invest in recycling paper to reduce waste. We learned that some congregations hold worship services outside or take members on nature walks as a way to connect with nature.

After this conference, I found myself drawn to the banks of the Mississippi in prayer. I got down on my knees and thought of all the little forces of life swimming in front of me. I thought of the tender habitat formed by God that rushes along the banks of Memphis. I thought of our strong church and all of the creative minds that worship together on Sundays at Lindenwood. I imagined the powerful ministry we could bring to our habitat. What could we contribute to the preservation of God’s precious planet? How could we talk about the environment with one another, and, how could we act? I prayed alone on the banks of the Mississippi. I prayed for healing, preservation and hope. Next time, I hope we are on those banks together, collectively sending our prayers and our efforts to the care of creation. Maybe soon, we can all gather at the river and get to work.

If you are interested in a small group focusing on care for the earth or God’s creatures on the earth through study or mission work, send me an email. If you have ideas for Lindenwood’s future engagement with nature, pass your ideas along to me: Sarah.Taylor-Peck@lindenwood.net.

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