Peace In The Storm

2 comments Written on November 26th, 2014     
Filed under: Testimonies and Stories
m petersonMary Peterson is the ACCW liaison for the Pacific Northwest Conference and serves as the Pastor of Children and Family Ministries at Highland Covenant Church in Bellevue, Washington. Mary and her husband, Eric, have two kids- a six year old named Luke and a four year old named Kate. 

I recently came across a homily on the calming of the sea (Matthew 8:23-37) by Peter Chrysologus, the Bishop of Ravenna from about 430-450 AD. I’ve heard this story a million, zillion times, but never have I heard it from this perspective. Here’s a quote:

“When Christ embarked, in the boat of His Church, to cross the sea of the world…the tempests of persecutors, the storm clouds of the mob, and the foggy mists of the devils all descended in fury to make one storm over all the world. The waves of kings were foaming, the billows of the mighty seethed, the rage of subjects resounded, nations swirled like whirlpools, sharp rocks of infidelity came into view, groans resounded from Christian shores, the shipwrecks of the fallen-aways were drifting about, and there was one crisis, one shipwreck of all the world. So the disciples came to the Lord and woke Him, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing.”

As I have been reflecting on what to write this blog about-what to share about how God has called me to serve him, God has reminded me of the storms I have been through. Storms inside my heart and mind, but also storms that blew in from elsewhere. I started seminary right out of college. I chose the only seminary I knew much about. It was the place my grandfather had studied when he was starting out in ministry. I was sure it was the best seminary I could choose. I was eager to dive into theology, Greek and Hebrew. There was only one glaring problem- my gender. I had no voice. Even after being accepted to the seminary and paying my tuition, there was no room for me at this table. Well, maybe there was room if I was looking to be a pastor’s wife, but I wasn’t. I felt like all of a sudden I was caught in a storm much like the disciples found themselves in. I doubted God. I doubted myself. I doubted the church I was raised in and loved deeply. I doubted denominations. The waves of doubt were crashing in, and I was truly perishing.

I dropped out of seminary, quit my youth pastor position and started working retail. For a year, God heard my cries of confusion, disappointment, pain and resentment. He slowly helped me to see that there were churches that not only welcomed women, but celebrated them. I am forever grateful for those pastors who threw out a lifesaver to me while I was lost in a stormy sea. People who encouraged me to continue my studies at a different seminary. Pastors who looked me in the eye and said, “God has called you to serve him.” Family and friends who listened to me, walked beside me and prayed for me. Ultimately I am forever grateful that it was Jesus who spoke into my stormy heart the words I so needed to hear, “Peace. Be still.”

And while, at times, I feel like I have sailed into a calm and welcoming cove, my heart breaks for my colleagues who are still caught in a hurricane. Women who have so much to offer God’s kingdom are being buffeted by winds of fear, doubt, discrimination, and confusion. Every once in a while, a wave of seasickness washes over my heart, and I wonder, “How much longer? Jesus, save us! We are perishing.” And Jesus reminds me again that he is Lord of this ocean. He can calm the stormy waters that his church is sailing through. He is the peacemaker.

We are called to follow Christ and be peacemakers- everything we do should bring the peace of God to the chaos of the storms around us. Most of us are eager to reach out and offer hope to someone in need, but we often fail to do this with women who are seeking to understand God’s call in their lives. So how can we bring peace to the stormy waters for women clergy? Maybe that means we look out in our congregations and throw out a lifeline to a woman who feels like God is calling her to ministry. Perhaps we invite a woman to preach on a regular basis. What if we asked superintendents to hide the genders of those seeking a call before passing them on to search committees? Maybe we write a note of encouragement to women who are seeking a call. What if everyone who served on staff at a church was fairly paid for their work? There are so many ways that we can help people to hear the voice of Jesus saying to the storm, “Peace. Be still.”

What are some lifelines that you have experienced as a woman in ministry? What are some lifelines that you have thrown out to a woman in ministry? Let’s share some ideas of how to care for these women that God has gifted and called to serve his church.


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2 comments “Peace In The Storm”

Mary – I am so thankful for all of the women admen who have walked with me during seasons of storms in ministry. I had a male colleague offer me an opportunity to speak at his church during a season of waiting for call and he paid me a nice honorarium. During a time when I questioned if God was finished with me, I was given the opportunity to preach. During this same desert season I had a male colleague call me once a week for two years to check in with me … two lifelines that gave me hope that God still had mission and ministry left for me to do. So thankful for these lifelines and for your reminder of God’s power to speak to our storms. 

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Amen, precious. It breaks my heart that this issue was not addressed long before your generation. I felt the call at 20 years old, but that was the ’70’s. I never imagined how crushing the church can be once I finally was called in my 40’s. This needs to be brought up on a consistent basis–over & over & over until the message that gender is of no importance is heard and settled. Keep on thru the storm. Jesus is cheering you on, as am I.

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