Spiritual Autobiography and Ministerial Identity
I was raised in a moderate Baptist congregation, Central Baptist Church of Fountain City in Knoxville, TN. After a conversation with my family, I made a profession of faith at age seven and was baptized a few months later. My ministerial training began early in this nurturing and loving community that encouraged me to be an active participant in Bible study, worship planning and leadership, church committees, and local and global service. When I experienced a calling to ministry before my senior year of college, ministers and church members responded with joy and affirmation. They continued to love me and support me through my educational journey and graciously ordained me on July 14, 2002 following my graduation from divinity school. Central Baptist gave me the great gift of facilitating my vocational journey and teaching me the value of collaborative ministry.
Dear Members and Friends of West Baptist Church,
The emergence of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) places us in the midsts of a health crisis unlike anything most of us have faced in our lifetimes. While we seek to protect our loved ones and ourselves against infection, we empathize with those who are ill and grieve with those who have suffered loss. Our continued prayers are with those directly affected by the virus, those in the health care community who are tirelessly working to treat the sick, and those government and public health officials developing responsive measures.
- First Baptist Church Murfreesboro,Tennessee — “We’re All in This Together,” Sermon for the Martha Stearns Marshall Month of Preaching, February 19, 2017
- Robert Carr Chapel, Brite Divinity School at Texas Christian University — “Christian Response-ability for‘Never Again,’” A Christian Service for Yom HaShoah: Remembering the Holocaust, January 25, 2011.
- Texas Christian University — “This is ‘Myspace:’ Ending Violence Against Women Through Community,” Graduate Student Forum,Women’s History Month, February 2007.
This article offers a dialogical examination of 1 Kgs 17–19 that deconstructs traditionally accepted characterizations of Jezebel, Elijah, and the Widow of Zarephath. This study proposes that shifting emphasis from Elijah and Jezebel as polar opposites to a literary ménage à trois that involves all three characters makes it possible for the holy man to become a stranger and the strange women to become holy. The narrative tensions thus revealed question the validity of Israel’s definitive identity markers. When reading the stories of Jezebel, Elijah, and the Widow of Zarephath in the Deuteronomistic History, clear-cut distinctions between ‘insiders’ and ‘outsiders’ continually collapse.
Ministry, in my mind, requires a collaborative effort on the part of members, leadership, and ministerial staff. The church is at its best when members feel invested in and integral to the life of the church. A flourishing congregation is one where ministers nurture and appreciate the active participation of the congregants in the life of the church. Ministers provide guidance, expertise, education, and worship leadership that both fulfills their own callings and speaks to the evolving needs of the congregation and the world beyond. I understand my ministerial role as that of equipping people of faith with the tools they need to craft lives of service and reflection in the church and in the world.
“To me the willingness to change and be changed, to remain always open is a defining principle of intellectual life” ~Parker Palmer in Teaching Community
In my experience, education has provided a profound source of joy, as well as opening me to realities of the world that grieve me deeply. Education has empowered me to make changes in my life, expose myself to new opportunities, and take on forms of activism I may have never discovered on my own. It has also made me a more empathetic person. Education provided a window into lives of people whose lives radically differed from my own, and I found their stories compelling, disturbing, and transformative.