My friend Jessi Higginbothom was ordained last night as a Minister of Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) I was asked to charge her following her ordination. Here is the charge:
June 28, 2009
You will learn that things happen so quickly it is like the blink of an eye.
That is how long ago it seems that you introduced yourself to me right back there after my first Sunday at St. Giles.
You said, “My name is Jessi. I just graduated from FSU and I am here to do whatever you want me to do!!”
I thought, “I love this place and I love this young woman.”
And I do love this place and I do love you.
That was almost five years ago.
And now, here you are…
in your new robe and in your new stole with your new degree
at a new church!
My task is to charge you this evening.
My charge does not include things I have mastered, but what I hope for you and for myself.
For now, be very gentle with yourself.
Do a lot more listening than talking.
Understand that your congregation has a story that you do not yet understand.
Understand that that story will unfold slowly to you as you open yourself to it.
Understand that you will have an important place in that story,
but you will not be the story.
Try never to be the story.
As a pastor, be a story teller and story proclaimer, but not the story maker.
Be comfortable behind the scenes as well as in the pulpit.
Identify and celebrate and lift up the gifts in others.
Be the imaginer.
Let your congregation shine the light of Christ
in ways they had never imagined for themselves.
Learn to walk the balance beam of pastor and friendship and do not confuse the two.
Sometimes you cannot be both.
During times of discouragement,
(there will be times of discouragement)
Find someone or a group of someones to talk to outside your congregation.
In church business, be transparent.
Make no church decisions behind closed doors.
Include as many as possible in everything you do in ministry
all the days of your ministry.
Be present for your colleagues.
As an associate, make the entire staff look good.
Learn when to hold your tongue and when to speak boldly.
Find your voice and use it wisely and sparingly.
Insist on being paid fairly and insist on being treated fairly.
Be a role model for women in ministry and find women role models.
Support young women and look toward the older women.
And as you age into one of the older women…..
Pick up some younger women and bring them with you on your journey.
When and if you have a family,
be at peace with spending less time at the church.
Be at peace with schlepping children around with you.
Be at peace with their always being more you can do.
Be at peace with a messy office and a messier house.
Be at peace with plans that change,
Know when it is time to remain with a congregation
and when it is time to leave.
Know that sometimes your needs and vision and the
congregations needs and vision will not be the same.
Rejoice when they are the same.
And again, I say, rejoice.
I probably could go on, but I will close with a prayer from Teresa of Avila.
“May today there be peace within.
May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.
May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith.
May you use those gifts that you have received,
and pass on the love that has been given to you.
May you be content knowing that you are a child of God.
Let His presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love.
It is there for each and everyone of us.” Blessings Jessi!