Editor's Note: Along the Way highlights the stories of young women on their way toward ordination. Submissions are welcomed and should be sent to alongtheway(dot)ycw(at)gmail(dot)com.
As the tears rolled down my face, Abby whispered, “The last piece, dear Katelyn, is learning to love yourself as God loves you.” My tears were a mix of relief, thanks and fear at saying “yes” to my first ministerial position. The tears came easily as I sat in the office, meeting with Abby and Doug, my home church pastors, to review my ministry contract for my new position.
For the past year I’ve been immersed in the Search and Call process, seeking a call to be an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. I’ve heard the process compared to dating, or a roller coaster ride. In my experience the dating analogy is more accurate. A roller coaster ride, while full of ups and downs, is usually over in two minutes. In contrast, the Search Process typically takes between twelve and eighteen months. I remember hearing this in UCC Polity class. But hearing it is different than experiencing it.
Genesis 17:1-7 and Galatians 3:26-29; 4:4-7
The Christmas tree is down, the decorations stored away and family members have returned to their own homes. At least in theory we have accomplished this “putting away” of Christmas. Yet, is Christmas really tucked away in neat boxes, orderly piled in our attics until the day after Thanksgiving next year?
Why then, did we sing a Christmas hymn as our opening worship song this morning? Why are we still referencing Emmanuel, God with Us, in our liturgy? And as much as we love the Christmas season, isn’t it just a season? We’ve endured hearing the same Christmas music on the radio for at least a month or more, isn’t it time to move on?
We have been working our way through the senses this Lenten season. Two weeks ago, we began with taste. Jesus was tempted to turn stones into bread. He was so hungry he could almost taste it. Last week, we met Nicodemus in the middle of the night. He struggled with wanting to see Jesus without being noticed himself. He was still shortsighted. Today, we meet a woman, who after meeting Jesus, shared her story with all those who had ears to hear.
The writer of John is often referred to as the Evangelist. He writes his gospel in such a way as to share the Christian message that his readers would become believers and doers of the Word. He was a gifted storyteller, and he knew what he was doing when he put today’s passage right after Nicodemus. The situation and the Samaritan woman couldn’t be much more different.
Last week I reached a milestone. I paid off my car. It took me 5 years to do it, and I found, as I saw the last bill with $0.00 after the words “Balance Due,” that it was a bittersweet moment.
I’m not one of those people who has a relationship with my car. At least, I don’t think I am. However, I see a burgundy Subaru Station Wagon (now a rarity) and I am taken back to the first car I learned to drive with a manual transmission. I can still remember my mom teaching me how to drive it, telling me when I learned, then my sister and I could stay home alone while she and my step-father went away for a weekend. I learned quickly. I smile when I think of “Bob” the neon that my sister and I shared for a while, and the “tin can on wheels” Tercel that was basically a car body, 2 doors, a stick shift, and a steering wheel. My last year of college I got my first “grown up” car – a Nissan Altima. It was used, but I had graduated to a vehicle that had automatic door locks and windows. I was in heaven. That car took me from college graduation to my first job. It is what I parked at my first apartment, drove back and forth to my parent’s house, and is the car that took me to visit seminaries. I can still remember leaving one school and pulling out of the parking lot after visitation weekend knowing it was not the place for me, and 2 weeks later pulling out of my future alma-mater certain that this was it. That car carried me to seminary, across the country for an internship, on road trips with friends, to tiny rural churches to pulpit supply, and eventually 14 hours north to my first call. I remember when I signed the papers for the new car feeling sad about the passing of the old one. But, 125,000 miles is a lot and it was either throw good money after bad, or have a fresh start.
I’ve been thinking about home a lot. By “home” I mean the concept of home. You see, I just moved from Tennessee to Washington. My husband and I recently set up the apartment and we placed decorative letters spelling the word “home” on a shelf. Most of our things remained in boxes, the walls were bare, our nostrils were filled with that newly washed carpet smell, and yet we put “home” on the shelf. We were very careful to make sure that every letter was straight and we cocked our heads to the left and right to double check. Is Washington home?
I’m from Florida and in fact, four years ago, I moved from Florida to Tennessee. Whenever I visit Florida for special occasions—graduations, weddings, babies, Christmas—my siblings text me things like, “I can’t wait for you to come home tomorrow!” I’m greeted on Sunday mornings at church by surrogate grandparents who hug my neck and say “Glad you’re home!” Is Florida home?
I couldn't tell you when I first started thinking of myself as a feminist. It's almost like asking me when I became a Christian -- I was brought up this way. In elementary school, I came home from the school library with junior biographies about Marie Curie and Betty Friedan and, no joke, Dr. Ruth. To be great, I read, was to live a life that furthered knowledge and access to it by an ever increasing swath of people.
I was in the eighth grade when Hilary Clinton became first lady. She was from my home town; how could I not have idolized her? Her feminism was of a comfortable sort; she was a mom, albeit a working one. She spent too much on her hair, but understood that it takes a village to raise a child. She was an equal partner in her marriage, even though he was the leader of the free world. It might not have made her any friends in the GOP, but their relationship assured me that smart girls could score worthy men (a key priority as I entered high school; a dream unshattered by his extramarital terribleness).
When I was in seminary, a member of my home church (you know those church ladies; they raised you, fed you, shuttled you around on youth trips, sent you graduation money, told you your “special music” was wonderful when really it probably wasn’t—anyway, one of those) jokingly accused me of becoming a minister primarily so I would never have to do math.
She was not wrong.
I hate math. And numbers. And chores and errands and paperwork and details, and anything that requires my right brain to wake up and pay attention. As strongly as I felt the call to pastoral ministry, I’m not gonna lie—if Algebra had been required for an MDiv, I’d probably be a copy editor right now.