When Your Pastor Has A Baby: 5 Things to Remember

BTP shoes

+Mark 9:36-37 Jesus took a little child and stood among them, taking the child in his arms, he said to them “whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name, welcomes me…”

It’s official: 2 Pastors in Canton Ohio are having a baby in 2015! What does this mean for our churches-or any church-when your pastor has a baby?

Here are 5 things I hope my church (and all churches with soon-to-be parent pastors) remember:

1) God has called your pastor to serve, and likely, this call is just beginning.

What will it actually be like for your pastor to have a baby? Is this the end to ministry as we know it? It’s natural for churches to have anxiety about a big change and a new addition to a pastor’s priorities. But children offer an opportunity for churches to grow together and for the church family to learn more about becoming the beloved community. I love serving Community Christian Church. I feel called to serve here well into the future. I believe my ministry will only be deepened and enriched as I become a mother. I am passionate about my vocation AND my family. I believe this is true for most ministers called to serve The Church.

2) Parenting and ministry go hand in hand, and often switch places.

To love, to nurture, to protect, to teach, to advise, to comfort, to listen, to stretch, and to build a family together… this could be said for ministry or parenting. Being a minister helps me prepare to be a mother, and becoming a mother will strengthen my gifts for ministry. I will do some of my best parenting from the church when I am serving as a minister- creating a safe, sacred place for my children to explore the big questions. I will be doing some of my best pastoral care from home as a mother- creating passionate followers of Christ in my children through tenderness and attention, & teaching them to love their neighbors and stand up for justice.

3) You will be the witnesses to this child’s life, and that’s an honor.

Most pastors serve churches away from their hometown, and away from their families. They have been called into your community, and with trust and hope, they have invested in your church. It is my hope and my prayer that the church will see this baby as a testimony to our desire to deepen roots in Ohio, and at our churches. Our congregations will hold our baby more than our parents and family. This community will bear witness to the milestones and the growth of our son. Church members will be the trusted ones to teach our baby, to share in the love of our baby and to be our partners in the shaping of this little boy. We will all be intimately connected through journey in our lives. It is a gesture of trust for any pastor to welcome a congregation into their journey of parenting.

4) Churches have a chance to put their prayers into action by supporting the health of their pastor after the baby arrives.

Pastors need parental leave. Most pastors hope and pray that the church can structure a maternity leave that will not be a detriment to the progress and momentum of the church, and that will not be a detriment to the pastor’s growing family. I am working with the leaders of CCC to develop a plan for a maternity leave. We are engaged in research with other pastors and denominational policies so that we can devise a leave that will strengthen both me and the church. At Community Christian Church, I believe we can be leaders in this process- showing the world what it means to be a church that values women in ministry, and young families in the church- with this, the kingdom of God draws near.

5) The church is more than the Pastor, and all will be well during a maternity leave.

A church is a group of faithful, compassionate people. Prayer shawl knitters. Bereavement Meal cooks. Singers who make a joyful noise each week in worship. Children who remind us to approach our faith with wonder. And so much more. At CCC, we are already planning for some dynamic guest preachers to fill the pulpit in my absence. The leadership is also planning a retreat for Elders, Deacons, Trustees and Board members in August that will help the leadership continue to gain strength. Our Elders have worked hard over the last year, filling their toolbox with skills in pastoral care and leadership- and they are ready to invest deeply in their ministry responsibilities in my absence. Remember, the church is much bigger than the pastor!

I am confident that the church will remain strong and grow from this opportunity to welcome a new little Taylor Peck. I thank God for each of you and the ways you will be a part of my son’s life.
Much heart,
Rev. Sarah Taylor Peck

For more insight on this topic- I encourage you to read a post from my friend and colleague Rev. Erin Wathen, senior minister at St. Andrew Christian church- she encouraged much of my thinking on this topic and she beautifully articulated these points and more on her blog entry from 2013:
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/irreverin/2013/07/practicing-what-we-preach/

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Antiracism Training (Shaped Through Awareness)

antiracism

+ Micah 6:8 What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

I spent the last few days in Columbus for the “New to the Region” Clergy training. For our session today, we focused on antiracism.

We mapped out a timeline of racism and resistance in this country since 1492.

We explored individual, institutional and cultural racism that still seeps in to our society in 2014.

We heard a personal testimony from a member of the Christian Church who has endured profiling in his search for apartments and encountered fear from his neighbors on vacation.

At the end of the class day, the white members of the class took turns reading statements aloud that started with “As a white person…” and some of the phrases pierced my heart:

As a white person, I can, if I wish, be in the company of people of my race most of the time.

As a white person, I can turn on the television, the front page of the newspaper, read the corporate annual report, and see people of my race reaching their dreams and widely represented in the success stories I aspire to.

As a white person, I do not have to educate my children to be aware of systemic racism for their own daily physical protection.

Naming our white privilege and spending time listening to the stories and personal experiences of our brothers and sisters of color deeply moved me today. I felt the weight and the responsibility of my privilege- and the importance of awareness, advocacy and partnership across all racial/cultural lines.

When have you felt shaped through awareness? #ShapedByGod

Who Are We?

Lindenwood 2

+ Psalm 1:1-3 Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the lost, or take the path that the broken tread, or sit in the seat of doubters; but their delight is in the vision of the Lord, and on God’s vision they meditate day and night. They are like trees planted by the streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all they do, they prosper.

The Lindenwood vision team met last night. Eight faithful people will pray, and listen, and wait for a clear image to emerge as we look to our future. Who are we? Where are we called to speak up? How are we called to serve? Why do we continue to assemble as a church?

Lindenwood sits on the busy street corner of Union Avenue and East Parkway in midtown Memphis. Thousands of people drive by our sanctuary every morning and every night.

Across the street from our building, Memphis Theological Seminary Students explore theological ideas.

Around the corner from our facility- families ride their bikes, grill out on sunny afternoons, and walk their dogs through our grounds.

We minister in a city with increasing illiteracy and obesity. We engage a community with deep divisive history and rich stories of civil rights.

We belong to a denomination that seeks wholeness in a fractured world. We maintain a tradition of no creed but Christ, no gospel but love, and no purpose but to serve.

In our chairs and pews each Sunday, we preach to those who have never been to church, who grew up in church, who left church, who despised church, who felt hurt by church and who continue to stand at the doors of the church.

In our church family- we worship with those who are single, married, parents, divorced, recovering, broken, old, young, rich, poor, healthy and sick.

In this vast context- who are we?

Lark News posted a funny satire about a new church for Jerks this week. The piece says:

Walk into Mark Hanson’s church and nobody will greet you. The guys hanging around the foyer might even make fun of what you’re wearing, or your haircut. A sign over the entrance reads, “Grab a seat in the back and shut up. Nobody cares what you think.” Welcome to Jerk Church. “You know these guys,” says Hanson, the pastor and founder. “They sit with their arms folded the whole time, leave during the altar call, criticize the pastor, snort when other people state their opinions and never create lasting bonds of friendship. Their wives are always really stressed. Bingo — that’s my mission field.”

This is not Lindenwood Christian Church.

I remember my final interview with the Lindenwood search team three years ago this month. After 2 hours of questions and inquiries, the search committee chair invited me to ask questions. I asked that each search team member tell me what they loved about Lindenwood. As they went around the circle, each of the 12 team members described the way that Lindenwood welcomed them. Some came from other traditions. Others came for refuge. Many came with doubts. A few came with curiosity. But every person in the room described a feeling of belonging at Lindenwood. This church was home.

Who are we at Lindenwood Christian Church?

In this time of discernment, we are clarifying our mission: What is God calling this church to do and be?

We are defining our vision: what does it look like to be involved in our mission?

We are naming our core values: what drives us toward our vision?

And we are jumpstarting our ministries: what actions will we take to fulfill our mission?

We believe that Mission + (Core Values -> Vision) = Ministries.

But how do we take on this process? How do we find our perfect ministry equation at Lindenwood Christian Church?

Psalm 1 hints at a process for discovering this vision:
Do not follow the lost: we cannot take our cues from recent trends or temporary investments.
Do not take the path that the broken tread: we cannot model our future based on our past- it hasn’t worked.
Do not sit in the seat of doubters: we cannot make decisions based on those who question, pick apart, or denigrate our new ideas.
Meditate on the vision of the Lord: we must pray our way into a new future.

If we take the wisdom of the Psalmist to heart- we will grow and even bloom like a sturdy tree next to an endless stream of blessings. May it be so.

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.

Experiential Learning

As my journey at Lindenwood continues to unfold, I learn things every day. I learn what church staff meetings look like. I learn about church budgets. I learn to balance family life with my love, Andrew, and church life. I learn to take care of myself as I take care of others. I learn about worship. I learn about community. I continue to pray out loud in church. The act I once feared is one I now cherish.

I continue my practice of praying for Lindenwood during services. I’ve started hearing from members of the church about my prayers. ‘We like knowing more about your faith through your words”, “we like hearing a woman’s voice during our services”, “Thank you for speaking slowly”. Other comments. Other conversations start from my prayers. Praying aloud in church allows me to know Lindenwood, and be known by my community.

Pastoral Prayer, September 27th, 2010

Loving Creator, we come to you with a simple prayer of gratitude today. Hear us as we say thank You, thank You, thank You.
We are filled with joys, concerns, hurts, and questions. You collect all of these prayers. You are present to us in our worry and in our celebration.
And so, we come to You today to say thank You for warm shelter.
Thank you for enough to eat.
Thank you for loving community.
Sweet spirit, we also know that You have been working hard through this community.
On Wednesday night You were with us as we bagged groceries for 144 Memphis families. Give us the strength to never stop working for our brothers and sisters who do not have enough to eat.
You move through us as we raise money for our Habitat for Humanity project. Give us the courage to never stop creating refuge for Your people who do not have warm shelter.
You are knitting us together as Your Church, Your beloved community. Help us to find the endurance sustain the hard work of loving and serving the world.
We pray all our prayers, those said and unsaid, in Jesus’ sweet name. Amen.

Eureka!

Andrew and I are off to Eureka later this month. Eureka, Illinois, that is.

As part of our journey through ordination, we have decided to enroll in a week long, intensive course to brush up on our Disciples polity. Recently, we both quit our Boston jobs. We negotiated a September start date for our new Memphis jobs, and, we’ve decided to focus on retreat and renewal for the next two months as we pack up our lives.

From July 19th to July 23rd, we will be staying in the dorms of Eureka College and spending 26 hours in a classroom for a rapid course in Disciples History and Polity. We will share the classroom with 28 other students. We’re thrilled. We’ve started reading our collection of articles, essays, and speeches to prepare for this course. We’ve started imagining our sunny afternoons on the campus of this historic Disciples college. I particularly cherish the opportunity we will have in our early marriage to learn together and study together.

We actually decided to fly straight from Belize City (our honeymoon destination) to this week-long course. Whether we simply review the traditions of our beloved denomination, or we experience moments of complete ‘eureka!’, we’re ready, and excited! The course at Eureka College will continue to propel our journey to ordination. Exciting, Amen!

Pentecost

In my home church, I signed up to assist with worship for Pentecost. On this liturgically important day, Hope Church happened to be between pastors.

We said a tearful farewell to our interim minister the week before Pentecost, and, we will not say hello to our new permanent minister until June 6th. In this ‘between’ time, leading worship means providing necessary glue to keep our congregation together as we go through a transformation.

As a worship facilitator, I took responsibility for writing the invocation prayer, making church announcements, leading the congregation in confession, assuring forgiveness after confession, passing of the peace, call to prayer, prayers of the people, scripture reading, and general organization of the service.

In the past, when I preached at Hope Church, I often requested support and supplemental leadership from others so that I could focus on my sermon alone. Pentecost served as my debut as a non-preaching worship leader.

I signed up to assist with worship planning for May 23rd before I realized we would also be celebrating Pentecost. As the date came closer, I began to focus on the significance of this Sunday. As I explored the meaning of this Church celebration, I felt more comfortable with the idea of leading our congregation through prayer, confession, and a spirit of worship.

Pentecost is often considered the Birthday of the Church. We celebrate Pentecost 50 days after Easter. The celebration represents the anniversary of the Holy Spirit entering into the community of the Church.

Through my worship planning, I fell in love with Pentecost. My understanding of the liturgical day deepened, and my appreciation of it reached a new height. I cherish the opportunity to acknowledge the living holy spirit and celebrate the spirit alive in all of us.

Pentecost is a time for all of us to re-awaken our commitment to action, love, and justice. We celebrate the spirit that moves in us and through us. We remember that we have the spark of the spirit within us, and we have the power to act as Christian Disciples.

Here are the words to the responsive invocation prayer that I wrote for Pentecost:

Responsive Invocation Prayer, Pentecost 2010- Hope Central

One: Tender, merciful God, today we thank you for sending your Spirit to do justice through us.

All: Your faithfulness inspires us.

One: Beautiful, almighty God, we thank you for sending your Spirit to unite us.

All: Your faithfulness motivates us.

One: Steadfast, patient God, we thank you for sending your Spirit to move through us and bring us to our knees in service.

All: Your faithfulness gives us courage.

One: Gentle, attentive God, we thank you for sending your Spirit to embrace us with the assurance that hope is not lost.

All: Your faithfulness gives us peace.

One: We pray for continued guidance, strength, mercy, and love.

All: Amen.

The First Few Steps

Eight weeks into my official ordination process, I can detect a difference in my daily outlook. The thought of my future in ministry stays with me as I encounter the world. I remember the wisdom of my preaching professor in divinity school who taught us that preaching ‘gems’ are everywhere, and it’s worth collecting these gems. Matt Myer Boulton encouraged each of us to clip and save the news articles, idiosyncratic stories and glimmers of God in the world for our preaching ‘tool box.’

For the past few weeks, pastoral gems also pop up in my daily routine. Throughout Holy Week I paid attention to the Maundy Thursday service and the Good Friday service and I tried to identify the elements of the service that I might like to ‘borrow’ someday in my future role as minister. For example, in one Maundy Thursday service I attended, every person at the service was invited to recite the words of institution over communion. This was a beautiful exercise.

Andrew and I also attended a Disciples minister training on April 10th. In the training, we participated in challenging conversations about the future of the Northeast region of Disciples of Christ. Currently, we are a diverse region of ministers and ministers in training, but we struggle to find common ground across our differences. At various points in our training, conversations heated up and participants wrestled tough questions. Andrew and I learned a lot in this training.

We had the chance to lead worship to close this day of reflection. Andrew and I opened the service with a round of ‘Lord Prepare me to be a Sanctuary’, and Andrew read a beautiful prayer he wrote for the occasion. Other seminarians offered theological reflection and the words of institution for communion. The concluding service was powerful after a challenging day of reflection and discussions of reconciliation.

The growth and formation continues….

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