Thriving in Ministry

A few months ago, one of the clergywomen I had met while at seminary in Richmond reached out to me asking if I would be interested in a cohort for clergywomen living in the south who are in their first solo/senior pastorate call. It’s a pretty specific group, of which there are not many (female senior pastor in the south? Pass). Our group consists of one DOC in Virginia, Episcopalian in North Carolina, Baptist in South Carolina, UMC in Alabama, and PCUSA in Alabama. We’re the most ecumenical group of women.  high five

It was a pretty intense application process.  I had to get letters of support from leadership in the congregation and denomination, as well as references from other colleagues.  I had to update my call story and what I’ve been doing since being called to Emmanuel in February 2017 (spoiler alert, it’s a lot). We submitted our application and waited. 

Of all the applications, our group of was one of four selected to enter into a 15-month journey together! The next 15 months will consist of:

  • Retreats as a large group (with the other cohorts) in September (Equine therapy in Mississippi) March (Mexico!), and October (GERMANY!)

  • Zoom calls as a cohort (twice a month for about two hours each) to check in and offer support and accountability as we work towards our goals

  • Time away for just me

  • Cohort trip in May to the Festival of Homiletics in Atlanta

  • Congregational training led by the Director of the program

  • Spiritual coaching AFTER the program

If you want to read a more detailed description of the program, check out their website (headshots and bios coming soon). This program is a big deal and a learning opportunity for all of us as we learn the best ways to take care of each other! 

My first retreat is September 2-6 in Flora, Mississippi, where I’ll spend time with horses and doing some enneagram work!

What Are We Missing?

Have you worshipped with us lately and thought, "do they know they're too big for this space?" The answer, of course, is yes! We're aware of it every single week. We no longer have room most Sundays for everyone to comfortably sit in worship. We have young families and need more space for our parents and newborns, as well as our wiggly children! EBF is cultivating a beautiful community, and it's clear we need more room.
Space Jam (the team created earlier this year to help us find a new space) has been meeting and in great discernment about possible locations for EBF to grow and thrive in.
In April, the church voted for this plan and criteria. Space Jam's ready for step 10 (recommend a space to Administrative Council), but before we do that, we want to know- are we missing anything? Have you driven by any properties you think are worth researching? Have you had a place in mind that we need to look into? Now's your chance! Submit the form to let Space Jam know of a location we need to look into. Please submit your form by Sunday, September 1!

EBF Missions: Leaphart Place

Long before I came around, EBF has been partnering with Leaphart Place. “Leaphart Place is a launching pad for young adults who are aging out of foster care or other state-assisted living arrangements and are at risk for homelessness”. We are excited to continue and grow that relationship this year.

The residents create their wish lists. The folks of EBF do the shopping and wrapping. We pick a night that works best for the residents, show up with dinner, and simply spend time together. That’s my favorite definition of missions; it’s my favorite calling- building relationships.

You are invited to use our Sign-up Genius to choose a gift! On Wednesday, December 19, we’ll gather for fellowship at Dale Baer’s home. We’ll wrap the gifts together and confirm that everyone has something. Can’t make it out shopping but want to give in some way? Feel free to give on-line (be sure to designate “Leaphart” in the “Give to:” section!!!!!). We’ll take the money that’s given for Leaphart to get items on the list or dinner for the residents.

Thank you for continuing and strengthening the relationship with Leaphart Place!

Pastor Judith

EBF: Yard Sale

((A letter from EBF’s current Moderator, Dale Baer))

Dear members, former members, and friends of Emmanuel Baptist Fellowship,

Greetings! As Moderator this year, I promised myself that I would try to minimize the expense we have in our two storage units. Many of you know that we ‘temporarily’ stored items when we moved to our present, smaller, more affordable location on Park Road almost three years ago. Since then we have spent over $2,000 on storing these items. My thought is that anything we could replace for $2,000 should probably not be stored anymore. When we moved to our Park Road location, we were very close to supporting ourselves. Since then, however, due to deaths, moving, and other normal things, we find ourselves about $1,000/ month short of required funds to operate.

HERE is a list of things we have in storage. We have offered them to our current members. Since you may have donated some of these items or may know of someone or an organization that might have a use for them, we want to offer them to you as well. I ask that you make a donation to the church in exchange for anything that you get. Consider it a payment or love gift. You may donate on-line or send a check to: EBF (117B Park Road. Lexington, SC 29072). Please contact me with anything you may be interested in by December 1.

Those of you who live in our area possibly could help us with another, happier problem! We need a larger space to meet. We especially need room for more chairs in our worship space as well as a space for our children and teenagers. Any leads you could provide us would be most appreciated.

Dale Baer, Emmanuel Baptist Fellowship Moderator
smoakbaer@gmail.com

What I'm Reading/Listening To...

During my sermons, I often talk about the phenomenal books/podcasts I'm reading/listening to these days.  I invite you to check them out--maybe even start a book club:

  • For the Love..Jen Hatmaker is an incredible minister/theologian/author/activist/mom.  She's written several books (Of Mess and Moxie was particularly great) and recently came out with a podcast.  "For the Love" dives into lots of different types of stuff- food, humor, transitions, feminism, and faith. My personal faves have been with Comedian John Crist, Author Rachel Held Evans (and her conversation about "The Greatest Commandment") 
  • I'm Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness, Austin Channing Brown. I've been making my way through this book- slowly but surely. As a white, straight person, it's a hard book to read.  Acknowledging white privilege is step one. I'm working on it. ((Also has an episode with For the Love))
  • Everybody Always: Becoming Love in a World Full of Setbacks, Bob Goff.  Bob Goff strikes again, with gold.  I'm savoring his timely words, perfect for today's culture (especially when you get past the He-God language).  You might assume it's merely surface level stuff, but he digs deeper into what love may look like in a society so full of despair and fear/hate/anger.   ((Also has an episode with For the Love))
  • Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again, Rachel Held Evans. BRAND NEW book (released June 12).  I admit I haven't read this all the way through yet, but ready to dive into this one real soon. ((Also has an episode with For the Love))
  • Grateful: The Transformative Power of Giving Thanks, Diana Butler Bass. Also a recent release (April 3).  I'm contemplating using this book as a sermon series this summer!
  • Outside the Lines: How Embracing Queerness will Transform your Faith, Mihee Kim-Kort. This book isn't released until July 1, but I'm on the launch team and received an early, free copy.  It's so, so good. I was able to use it in my sermon a few weeks ago about the goodness, beauty, and holiness of our bodies.  "We're not called to be perfect. We're called to love.  We're called to love bodies and to love from our bodies."- Mihee Kim-Kort
  • Dead People Suck: A Guide for Survivors of the Newly Departed, Laurie Kilmartin. I cackled my way through this book.  If you're looking for a hilarious (and a little crude) resource to grief about a parent's passing, this is for you. 
  • Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I've Loved, Kate Bowler.  This book helps answer (or at least invite conversation) questions about God and why bad things happen to good people.  What does our faith say about a God who lets bad things happen to good people? If God cared that much about us, why do humans experience that much pain? Bowler helps us process those thoughts/emotions in accessible language.  Again, she doesn't offer straight answers, but instead encourages conversation and insight related to her own experience.   

-Judith 

We Are Family...

((To hear the full sermon, click here and listen to the June 10, 2018 sermon))

“You know, brothers and sisters, that our visit to you was not without results. We had previously suffered and been treated outrageously in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you the gospel in the face of strong opposition. For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts. You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed—God is our witness. We were not looking for praise from people, not from you or anyone else, even though as apostles of Christ we could have asserted our authority.  Instead, we were like young children among you. Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.” 1 Thessalonians 2: -18

This passage and these words come at a perfect time after a week like this week. Mental Illness is still very taboo in today’s society.  Nobody likes to talk about it, and many believe if you sweep it under the rug, it’ll go away.  Others believe that mental illness (depression or anxiety) is a sin and that if you pray enough, God will save you from your illness.  If you come from a tradition like that, let me be the first to tell you that God. Does. Not. Punish.  God does not see our shortcomings or our inabilities or disabilities as sins or something that we brought on by ourselves and because of something we have done.  IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT.  If anyone ever makes you believe it is your fault, come talk to me and I can clear that right up for you.  It is not your fault.

A lot of what I’ve heard this week about people like Kate Spade or Anthony Bourdain, were that they were full of life.  Why in the world would someone who was as rich, adventurous, or bold like a fashion designer like Kate Spade, or world renown Chef and adventurer Anthony Bourdain take their own lives?

When Lutheran Pastor, Nadia Bolz-Weber, does a funeral for one of her beloved church members who have taken their lives, she says “If love alone could have saved them, they’d still be here.” If love alone, the love of friends and family. The love of spouses or siblings, could have saved them, they’d still be here.  That’s not to say that you shouldn’t be kind to one another, or that you shouldn’t reach out when you see people struggling.  Yes, there are hotlines and text messaging numbers- but there’s also a responsibility that humankind has to show up for one another.

I think this is what Paul meant.  When we’re family, at our best, we can be the children and the mothers and fathers and orphans.  In the church family, like Paul, we all play all of these roles. We are brothers and sisters walking alongside each other. We are each other’s babies in need of care. We are mothers to one another, pouring out the milk of teaching and love. We are fathers cheering each other on in the faith. We are orphans when we’re apart, vulnerable and anxious. We are all of those things. When we start to pigeon hole ourselves into only one role, we aren’t following Paul’s example. If we see ourselves only as vulnerable infants, needy but with nothing to give, we stunt our own growth. When we see ourselves only as nurturers, always pouring ourselves out for others, not allowing anyone to care for us, we burn ourselves out. 

Paul and the Thessalonian church teach us that being a family together means bringing our full and true selves, every needy and nurturing part, without deceit or shame, to the table, like children ready to learn and grow. It means letting go of any claims to power or authority, and instead being willing to share the very best most nourishing parts of ourselves, like nursing mothers tenderly caring for each other. 

If you’re new to this crowd, we hope you feel the bonds that are already formed. And know that there is room for you here. In this family.  We carry one another.  We look out for one another.  We nurture and encourage.  We empower and help and journey alongside each other.    

May it be so.

((Pictures by Suzanne Vinson, silvertreeart))

Grace and Peace to You...

A snippet of Pastor Judith's sermon from May 6, 2018 based on Philippians 1: 1-11; a letter of a communal thanks and a communal challenge: 

Grace and peace to you, saints and sinners of Emmanuel Baptist Fellowship.  I do indeed give God a lot of thanks for the ways you have remembered me; for the ways you have cared for me, been gracious to me, been Church to me, been God to me.  I rejoice in the foundation of this place, what this church has meant, means, and will mean to people, because you have found ways to bring the good news to people.  The good news of not only welcoming people in this space, but affirming them for being exactly who they are.  The good news of Jesus Christ.  You not only welcome the child at Christ’s side, but the poor and rich, and unhealthy, and the lesbian, gay, bi, trans, and queer community.  That good news is worth celebrating, so I celebrate that with you.  For that is good and holy work.  I am confident that the work that God has called you, individually and collectively, to do will continue to make this world a better place.  And will bring the KOG closer to here- this place. My prayer is one of persistence.  My hope is that you will continue the good fight for peace and justice.  The will to stay on the fence, the will to stay silent, and be complacent is strong.  My prayer is that you persist over that fence, that you speak up, and ignore the will to be complacent.  Because when you do, you are inviting people into a space that never felt comfortable until now.  You are inviting people that were made to feel broken, and by not ignoring that, we are also less broken.  May we hear the continuous call to join in Christ’s work.  We know that we may have to lead the way, but we stand and work and march together to aid in justice.  With a church like this one, with family like you, we have no fear. Together, we can continue the good fight, and reap the harvest that the work of justice brings to all God’s children. 

Peace be with you, EBF family. Amen.

Marching in the Light of God: A Palm Sunday Sermon

An excerpt from the sermon on Palm Sunday:

“Maybe, just maybe, Palm Sunday happened yesterday morning.  High school students stood in solidarity with other survivors of gun violence yesterday, just 39 days after the shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida.  All over the country, students marched.  Young people led the way.  Parents and educators and aunts and uncles followed.  Ministers and police officers followed.  On the stairs of state house in Columbia, hundreds of students stood, using their voice and taking a stand.  The only thing missing yesterday were palms. The same way Jesus rode in on a donkey saying staring the Empire and oppression in the face, claiming that time was up, our young people are marching, too.        

This entire gospel, the entirety of all the gospels, is to teach a story about a God who loved us, people, so much, that God made God’s self fully human- that advocated for and fought for the rights of all humans.  And empowered us to do the same.

The life of Jesus is best explained by Richard Rohr.  He says, “Jesus announced, lived, and inaugurated a new social order, an alternative to violence, exclusion, and separation.  Jesus went so far as to promise us this alternate reality.  It is no fantastical utopia, but a very real and achievable peace.”

Jesus created a new social order.  We call him the prince of peace because that’s what he embodied.  And he promises us a world of peace, inclusion, and unity.  It’s very real and achievable.  But we can’t stay silent about it.  As Christians, as people who wave our palms once a year, giving thanks for a Jesus who created this new social order and who taught about love and grace and peace, we cannot keep contradicting ourselves.   

On this Palm Sunday, may we give thanks for all the people that ride into town on donkeys with a target on their back, who refuse to give up or who refuse to hide.  May we give thanks and learn their ways.  Instead of standing on the sidelines waving our palms, shouting “Hosanna! God save us!”, let’s follow this Jesus to the cross, facing the Empire and oppression, claiming that their time is up.  May we actively and boldly work to create a world of peace that Jesus taught us about.  May we boldly kneel at the feet of others and wash their feet.  So yes.  Hosanna. God, save us.  But God save us from ourselves, lest we become too quiet, too complacent.

And instead, let us march.  March into the light of God.”

 

Jerry Basden, Lisa Davis Brownlee, Annis Rankin, Pastor Judith Myers at the March for Our Lives (Columbia, SC/March 24, 2018)

Jerry Basden, Lisa Davis Brownlee, Annis Rankin, Pastor Judith Myers at the March for Our Lives (Columbia, SC/March 24, 2018)

A Letter to EBF..

2017 has passed. Now we must learn to write 2018 for all of our dates. Now we make resolutions and goals. Now we want to better ourselves during 2018.  

But we take a moment and give thanks for all that was in 2017.  I was called to pastor with you all in January 2017, beginning in February. We immediately jumped into an extraordinary Lenten season, following Barbara Brown Taylor's Learning to Walk in the Dark.  It was meaningful and intentional. It was beautiful and sacred. We celebrated the resurrection on a chilly Sunday morning. It was a morning filled with family and friends, with flowers, with hope. The spring was full of logistics. We had holy conversations about where God was calling us to- motivating us to revise our covenant and values to better match who we are today. We revamped our committee structure, again to better match who we are today.  We signed up for committees and got to work! 

The summer was laid back and restful. We ordained one of our own, Shaunna, a Chaplain now serving in August, Georgia.  We had cookouts and dreamed about what good Emmanuel can do.  We also had my Installation service.  We brought folks who knew me well, who nurtured me and encouraged me so that I may be confident in my call to Pastor.  

We kicked off the fall with energy.  We shared our own stories on Wednesday evenings. We had deep discussion in Sunday School about the Apocalypse (and read Scripture through an apocalyptic lens).  We began the Narrative Lectionary, following the Old Testament story from Creation to the prophet Isaiah giving God's people hope about what was to come. We celebrated World Communion Sunday with breads from all over the world.  We gave thanks for the Saints who have gone before us.

Advent was full of outreach and fellowship. We had our annual Christmas lunch and celebrated Christmas with Leaphart Place. We welcomed new members. We celebrated the birth of Jesus Christ.  

We said goodbye to people who we have loved, and who have loved us.  We said "welcome, beloved child of God" to the people who have walked into EBF.  Many of our people have had a hard year. We've walked with them well, giving the needed space, or lending a shoulder for the tears.  

This year, we've narrowed down our outreach efforts.  We prayed about the organizations that we have a close bond with, celebrating our relationships and building on those foundations.  We continued our strong connection with Leaphart Place, an organization that provides stability and assistance for those who have aged out of foster care. We celebrated Christmas with many of their residents. We also maintained our Little Free Library and Pantry at Victorian Lakes.  We marched with pride at the Famously Hot Pride parade, celebrating the beloved-ness of all humanity. 

I've learned a lot about this congregation this past year.  We've built some mutual trust.  And yet, there's still so much to figure out. I'm excited to learn more about the family systems at play. I'm excited to continue to build and gain trust with each of you.  I'm excited for how God is calling us to be a "unique kind of Baptist", where God may call us and lead us.  I give so much thanks for this call.  I give so much thanks for what this past year provided.  And I pray for this coming year.  That we get our hands dirty, being the presence of Christ to those who are on the margins, for those who were made to feel unloved and unworthy.  May we bold enough to claim our mission in this world.