Monday, May 10, 2010

Women in Ministry Part 4

by Amber

I am finishing up my project in women in ministry, and received a written response from Kae Evensen, who is a pastor at Mercy Seat Lutheran Church, and also an Adjunct Preaching Professor at Luther Seminary (who knew!) Here's what Kae had to say about being a women in ministry:

"A few of my favorite things are theology, drinking bargain white zinfandel with Benedictine nuns, literature, blowing stuff up, weightlifting, circus life, animal training, twigs, punk rock, and worm farming.

I'm married to Martin Marty (who is as funny and charming as Jack Black, but without the celebrity baggage). Marty is the founder and co-director of COPE, the Hennepin County mental health crisis intervention program. I am the mother of two amazing and wonderful children, seventeen-year old Emily, a senior at Concordia Academy and twenty year old Jimmy, a junior at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. I am also the legal guardian of three dogs, one cat and four fish.

And what does it mean to me to be a woman who is a leader in the church?

I've thought about this a lot because I've gotten critiqued on it a lot. Mostly because I'm not like a man, and because I'm not into business models of leadership (though I'm not against those per se, it's just not my primary model for leadership). Still, I never could exactly pin point what was 'wrong' and so of course, like most women, I thought something was wrong with me.

After being ordained for almost 10 years I thought about leaving ordained ministry altogether because I just grew tired of feeling like I had to fit in this box, which for a couple thousand of years, if not longer, has been framed and constructed by men. Then I happened across an ad in Christian Century about 8 years ago to study with a group of Benedictine nuns in Indiana through a Lilly grant. It was all about women in leadership. I applied to the program and got in. It was a six-year program, long, intensive, and hard and a huge investment on everyone's part.

But what I discovered about myself and leadership was wildly simple, deeply intuitive, and finally comforting. I learned after all the studying and tests and time with other women that being in leadership for me was grounded in such simple Christian practices as prayer, bible study, hospitality, offering thanks to those who encouraged and gifted me. That in a way, it wasn't about me at all, and the fact is, I would get critiqued, sometimes harshly and unfairly. But knowing who I was as a child of God, leaning into the promises given to me in my baptism, allowed me to let the critiques run off. I realized often it was 'their' issues and misguided expectations, and I didn't have to let 'their stuff' affect me. Sometimes it still does, and I need a day or two to breathe, but ultimately, I learned from all the studying and reflection on different styles of leadership that I wanted to go back to to the basics, not only because that is being true to who I am, but also because it models for others what Christian leadership can be. Prayer and time for personal bible study might not be as fancy or flashy as following the latest trends; it is not about power or current management styles, it is ultimately deeply sacramental: God chooses to use the ordinary stuff of life -be it wine or word or even people (like me!) - to proclaim God's promises to the world. And that is enough. I don't have to BE more, though I can always learn more.

Now, for me, leadership in ministry is about being human, and not just human, being a female human. It is about the most basic and lovely of Christian practices. In the gospel of John, Christ first revealed who he was to the woman at the well, and it was the women who discovered the empty tomb. We, as women, may not make the who's who of the disciple list, most often we go unnamed, but Christ knows and his Spirit works through us. And great things happen, even if we don't get lots of packs on the back; even if we don't see the fruits of our labor manifest. Yet."

'God chooses us to use the ordinary stuff, even people!' Well said, Kae! Men and women in ministry get to do this awesome work and we are chosen because WE ARE WHO WE ARE! God definitely chooses us for ministry knowing tht we have a lot to learn, and knowing the Spirit is going to be working on us as our brains and bodies change. God didn't choose us for this work because God has unrealistic goals for us. God wants the very best for us, and stops at nothing to make sure we don't give up on ourselves when God is at work. As I read Kae's story about her program with the Benedictine Nuns, first of all, I was stunned by the commitment and length Kae went to to discern. Second, I have heard of a few people who gave up on ministry without giving God a chance to speak into their decision. Taking time to pray, listen, read, and read the Bible often get set aside for our own agenda. Losing a person like Kae in ministry would be a huge loss, so I give thanks today for the ad she saw and for her commitment to listening to God in her life. I'm thankful the criticism never out-powered the promises of baptism. Blessings on you Kae as you continue to grow into the awesome woman God created you to be!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love this!

5/14/2010 12:50:00 PM  

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