Archive for November, 2015

Sometimes I Want to be Someone Else

5 comments Written on November 30th, 2015     
Filed under: Testimonies and Stories

chic2Cathy Kaminski is lead pastor of Trinity Community Church in Cincinnati, OH. She is 31, single and often exclaims, “I’m getting older as fast as I can.” But Jesus has called her to this season and this stage of life. She is trying to remember that and celebrate daily.

I feel like God has given me great grace and compassion for others. It is what allows me to enter the stories of people in my ministry context and love them well. However, I am often hit with the stark truth that I do not have much grace or compassion for myself. I know I am not alone in this reality. There seems to be a disconnect for many of us. We know this is an area of growth, but somehow the weight of expectation and standards seems too much to shake.

One way this manifests itself in my life is through comparison. If only I was older I could do this more effectively…. If only I was married I could connect with this person…. If I were a parent…. If I were male. It’s not that I have rose colored glasses on and assume in all these areas my life and ministry would be better. But there is truth behind the fact that ministry is different in each stage of life.

But it hit me, this season of my life has benefits too. Yes, if I were a middle aged male pastor I would be able to connect to some people more easily. But this stage of life, my gender, my age, my marital status, all allow me to minister in a unique and profound way. I could always compare myself to others or I can choose to celebrate who God has made me to be in this moment!

Ella and Averie (1)Recently I had been playing the comparison and grace game and not winning. Then something beautiful happened. A friend in my church turned five years old. I wanted to stop at her house and drop off a flower to say happy birthday. I ended up staying for over two hours playing with her and her seven year old sister. At one point my friend turned to me and asked, “Are you a mommy?” I answered, “No, I’m not.” She thought about that for a moment and responded, “Just a pastor then?”

I couldn’t help but laugh. “Yeah, just a pastor.” A pastor who gets to connect and love many children. A pastor who has the flexibility to let a five minute errand turn into a two hour rich experience. A pastor who is approachable enough for children to do her hair, run around the yard with and play games.

There are times that I want to be someone else. And in those moments I do not have much grace. But then there are times when I recognize the gift of my presence. The blessing of who God created me to be in this exact moment. I was able to build up my five year old friend and show her love because I am a single, young, female pastor.

It’s not about grace or compassion. It’s about thankfulness. Am I thankful for who God has created me to be? Am I thankful for the blessings that come with this season? Can I learn to be? And when I’m learning, grace and compassion follow.


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Zoomed In

3 comments Written on November 26th, 2015     
Filed under: Testimonies and Stories

Abby Jones is the pastor of the Evangelical Covenant Church in Stromsburg, NE. She earned an MDiv from North Park Theological Seminary in 2012. Abby is mom to Stella, Lucy, Mabel and Harper. Read more of Abby’s writing at 

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Last Fall I grabbed my husband’s DSLR camera and the keys to our car. We live in a little rural town, so it took me a whole two minutes to drive far away from civilization and down a dirt road. Leaves were changing colors and the sun was about to set. It was the perfect evening to learn about photography. I zoomed in, and in, and in, until I could closely see the cuts and curves of a blade of wild grass. Everything behind it blurred and blended into the background. Chiggers gnawed at my ankles as I circled around the shot, trying to capture the desired hue of orange and magenta bursting through the empty spaces in the frame.

After I had spent a good thirty minutes with the lens zoomed in as far it could go, I felt a little disoriented. My eyes were blurry and I was out of balance. I was learning to focus on one blade of grass and as I started to think it might look nice hanging on a wall, I slowly began to zoom the lens out and realized I was completely missing it. As I zoomed further and further out I began to see one of the most beautiful sunsets I had ever seen. I was so focused on the detail in that tiny blade of grass, that I was missing the whole picture.

Most of the time, I function this way. I’m a detail person. I get lost in the particularities that make up one individual tree that I quickly lose sight of the forest. Last night I was sitting around a table with a group of fabulous people. We had all read the book of Matthew the days leading up to our study. We digressed about tassels and phylacteries (Matthew 23:5), and before we knew it we were zoomed pretty far in to the most obscure and quite possibly trivial details that we missed the story.

I don’t know about you, but I fall into this trap more than I’d like to admit. Growing up in church, I was awarded for memorizing Bible verses. I’m pretty good at the essentials, John 3:16 and Romans 3:23 to name a few. But how often do we read John 3:16 followed by 3:17? We tend to memorize verses with no regard to context. We learn passages outside of their chapter, removed from their book, apart from the Bible.

We create theology, doctrine and dogma without the whole of Scripture in mind. We zoom in so far on one particular passage or verse that we neglect to read it within its book. We develop arguments and articulate positions based on a handful of verses, removed from their context, their book and without their place within God’s greater story. We obsess and deconstruct and analyze to the point that we completely miss the point. When we do this, we risk missing the grandeur of God’s movement, power and redemptive work taking place in the lives of people all around us. And that movement, power and redemptive work is not bound to the lens and focus of our eyes, God is not contained to our frame.

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The Woman in the Room

5 comments Written on November 17th, 2015     
Filed under: Testimonies and Stories

corrie gCorrie Gustafson is a pastor at Peninsula Bible Church in Palo Alto, California, where she regularly passes Google self-driving cars. She was ordained to Word and Sacrament in 2014 and serves as the ACCW board liaison for the Pacific Southwest Conference.

Staff meetings, board meetings, break-out sessions at conferences, ecumenical clergy gatherings, Covenant pastor cluster meetings, worship service planning meetings: I’m often the only woman in a roomful of men. I’m used to this dynamic after 15 years in professional ministry, but it was a jarring shift at 19 years old when I followed my interests and the prompting of the Holy Spirit, and became a biblical studies major.

As I progressed in my major two things happened: the classes shrank (which I liked) and the male-female ratio tilted steeply (which I didn’t always appreciate). I gained a band of brothers in the trenches of Advanced Koine Greek, but there were also times of profound loneliness. As one of a few women, or the only woman in a small class, there was often pressure to speak to the “female perspective” or to represent women who were already in ministry. This pressure intensified in seminary.

In both college and graduate school, when the controversial (to some) topic of women in ministry came up, eyes would suddenly turn to me. I was encouraged to share my thoughts and my interpretation of scripture, but this invitation was a package deal. It often came with an unspoken challenge to give expert-level exegesis of some of the most challenging texts in the Bible, and to have a holistic (a.k.a. impermeable) theology on the subject.

As a theology student, I never felt completely free to be a learner. Many fellow students, and even some professors, saw me more as a representative of a group or type, rather than an individual. It didn’t seem acceptable for me as a woman in the hallowed halls of theology – historically the domain of men – to be uncertain about some passages, to be in a process of discerning my call, or to be a bit uncomfortable with the label of pastor. For those who oppose women in ministry, any of these things were seen as vulnerabilities that could topple my theology and discredit my call to ministry. What I craved then – and occasionally still thirst for a decade after completing seminary – is the freedom to be Corrie.

I want to be Corrie, the committed disciple, and thus a constant learner of the way of Jesus Christ.

I want to be seen and known as Corrie, a child of God who brings my unique personality, and gifts, and story to the work of pastoring.

I wish that everywhere and for all time the fruit of my ministry wasn’t questioned, watered down, or dismissed because of my gender. I regard being a woman as an asset to ministry and to the church because I believe that we best serve the church and the world – both made up of women and men, girls and boys – when women and men work side-by-side without hierarchy. Being a woman makes me a minority in my field and it gives me a unique perspective in ministry, but it is not the only, or even the primary, uniqueness I bring to ministry.

Mainly, my ministry is unique because I’m me.

I’m a creative: I write, I sing and I act. I served several years as a chaplain, so talking about death and dying is as natural to me as talking about soteriology or this week’s order of worship. I’ve traveled to 18 countries and studied in Europe and the Middle East, experiences which have profoundly changed my worldview. I spent 19 months unemployed while seeking a call to ministry, so I know a thing or two about perseverance through a financial drought and a spiritual desert. I’m single and 35, full of purpose and thriving in celibacy.

Those are just some of the things that have shaped my story and that shape my ministry. Being a woman is a significant piece of me, but no more or less so than all the other pieces.

I am Corrie. I’m a pastor. And I am your colleague. I celebrate the day when we call each other friends and there is no other agenda between us but to graciously and joyfully serve the Lord together.


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Very Good

3 comments Written on November 11th, 2015     
Filed under: Testimonies and Stories

Mary Profile PicMary Peterson serves as Pastor of Children, Youth and Family Ministry at Highland Covenant Church in Bellevue, Washington. She is also President of Advocates for Covenant Clergy Women.

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

No doubt this passage from Genesis is familiar to you. The kids in our church are reminded every September that God created all that we see in this world, including you and me. Genesis 1 goes on to give more details regarding those first few days, weeks and months of Earth’s existence. God was busy, to say the least. As we enter the creation narrative, we see God’s imagination running wild as aardvarks began to roam the earth while bacteria quietly reproduced in the tiniest of places, and elephants looked up to see pterodactyls flying overhead. Scripture tells us that God looked at all he had made and saw that it was good.

“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.’”

The author of Genesis repeats the important parts to remind us that humans were created in the image of God- to reflect our Creator.

Often we think of the command to “be fruitful” in the most basic way of multiplying through reproduction… go forth and make babies. I think this passage is asking us to do way more than that– God is telling his people, the man and the woman, to go out together and fill the planet in his image. God filled the planet with creative and beautiful things. And we are invited, or even, commanded to go out together and be creative. My seminary professors referred to this as “the cultural mandate.” God gives that first woman and man instructions to go out and create culture- all of the things that make us human. From art to engineering to politics, making culture is making a way for us to do life and live together. And God gave this responsibility to both the female and the male.

We are not able to create the kind of culture that God imagined on our own. We need one another… “male and female he created them.” God has gifted each person in beautiful ways to go out and make culture, be fruitful and fill the earth. Maybe God has gifted you with teaching, or maybe you have killer skateboard skills, or maybe you are researching a cure for cancer. Maybe you can pick up any instrument and make music. Your organizational skills can be what makes the ministry at your church come to life. Maybe your paint brush makes spaces beautiful and thought-provoking. Maybe you partner with your sewing machine to make blankets for teen moms to wrap up their newborns. Maybe you use computers to make the internet work more smoothly. Or design roads that make it possible for people to commute to work safely. Perhaps God has called you to lead the church and point people to Jesus. Maybe God has called you to raise a family or tutor children at the school across the street.

And the good news is that all of those things can be done by God’s people- male and female. Your gender does not prevent you from living fully into what God has called you to do. In fact, your gender is needed to carry out God’s plan. After all, “male and female he created them… God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” Take a few moments to think about the people God has placed in your life. Are there any who need to be reminded that they were created in the image of God? Are there any who are waiting to hear that they are called and gifted? Are there any men or women in your church who need to hear that God wants them to participate in the creative process of bringing forth his kingdom? Maybe you are the one who needs to speak into their lives and remind them that God created them and calls them to do something important.


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2 comments Written on November 3rd, 2015     
Filed under: Testimonies and Stories

Jo Ann Deasy is an ordained Covenant pastor currently serving as the director of institutional initiatives and student research at the Association of Theological Schools in Pittsburgh, PA.

Declan's Birthday 003This past week was my son’s third birthday party. Despite a more than full work schedule this past month, I pulled out all the stops for the occasion. I made cupcakes decorated to look like penguins. I wrapped juice boxes in penguin outfits. I put together little treat bags filled with penguin crackers, penguin stickers, and penguin rubber duckys. I prepared most of the food, just ordering in a bit of chicken to finish out the meal. And I loved doing it. What I wasn’t prepared for was how I would feel when everyone found out what I had done.

There were the moms who looked at all the homemade food and decorations and commented, “Thanks for making us all look bad!” I knew they were joking, but I was surprised at my reaction. Rather than laughing it off, I felt guilty. Here I was an advocate for women leaders and pastors, a full-time working mom, and I had done something that made other working mom’s feel inadequate, as if they could not measure up. I made it look like I could do it all, which is so far from the truth.

Not only did I feel guilty, I felt embarrassed. As if showing this side of me, this craftiness, this domesticity, was somehow betraying the professional side of my identity. I had always equated such craftiness with the Martha Stewart types of the world, with those women in those church women’s groups that had never accepted me… or at least who I never felt accepted by because I was single, working, a pastor, with no family and very little desire to talk about what most women in the church seemed to want to talk about. I was not one of them and I would never be one of them! Even if I had just spent several evenings cutting out little penguin feet to glue on juice boxes.

I often feel the need to hide the more feminine (is craftiness actually feminine?… what a stereotype) sides of myself. The softer side. The emotional side. The crafty side. The side that cares about my clothes and make up. The side that fantasized about being a wife and mother when I was younger. The side that sometimes wants a knight in shining armor to come in and rescue me. I fear revealing anything in myself that fits gender stereotypes, that might remind people that I am a woman, that might cause people to remember that they don’t really believe in women leaders, that they don’t think women are smart or strong or worthy of trust.

I often feel the need to choose between the various “types” of women depicted in our culture. I can be a wife and mother or a pastor and career woman, but I can’t be both. I can be a sexy seductress or a virginal and/or asexual innocent, but nothing in between. I can be meek or angry. Loving or cold. Intelligent or emotional. But never both. To be more complex is to risk being marginalized, to risk being stereotyped away.

Women actors often have to fight for roles that are more rich and complex, layered and complicated. Women, especially women pastors, often have to do the same. We have to fight to bring all of ourselves into our roles as pastors… to bring ourselves as mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters… to bring our full range of emotions and experiences… our full range of interests and passions. It can be exhausting, but it is so important. Only by bringing our full selves can we break the stereotypes and create a world that sees women in all the rich complexity that God created us.

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