In the last two months, I’ve been asked two questions-What does my ministry look like and has that changed since I started my internship and what does ministry mean? Both on the spot questions without much thought given in advance.
What is Ministry?
This on the spot question was asked by a mother at a local Quaker meeting. My immediate answer wasn’t really my ideal one and now that I’ve had more time to think about it, I have a different answer. My initial answer was to talk about the different ministry interests that people have such as parish ministry and community ministry. Later on in the day, the word ‘service’ came to mind and I really think that defines what is ministry no matter what faith tradition you are in. It can mean service to a parish, service to a community, service to God, service to a hospital, etc. My answer wasn’t entirely wrong, it was just personal instead of broad.
What Does My Ministry Look Like?
The next question was asked by the chair of my internship committee last month. After a few seconds of thought, the answer was yes. When I received my calling to ministry, I had been speaking out and advocating about military sexual trauma, Post-Traumatic Stress, and disabilities, for about five years. At the time, I had already given a presentation at our regional Mid-America assembly on Post-Traumatic Stress and how to incorporate trauma survivors into congregations. Positive feedback was received and I felt this was the right thing to do. I decided that my goals after ordination were to help all religious spaces, not just Unitarian Universalist congregations, be more inclusive and accessible to people with disabilities, volunteer with the Unitarian Unversalist Trauma Response Ministry and continue my advocacy work. I had no particular interest in parish ministry which is a requirement of ordination other than the enjoyment of getting to know people and building connections both in the congregation and in the Eau Claire community as well as gain the skills needed to work with congregations and learn how they operate.
However, in the first six months of my two year part-time internship, I have been surprised by what I have found joy in and what has moved me spiritually and intellectually. One of my jobs is to co-teach the middle school religious education program, Crossing Paths. Each month this church year, we are learning about a different faith tradition or religion. We study it a Sunday and then take a field trip. We started off with Unitarian Universalism, Judaism, Christianity, Catholicism, Quakerism, and Islam. One month of the program was retracted so this month we are studying Humanism, Paganism and Indigenous traditions. Then we move on to Hinduism and Buddhism. Learning through teaching and experiencing with our youth, is powerful. Along the way, I have watched the youth become more inquisitive, asking questions not only to the teachers but also to hosts of field trips. The Quakerism field trip also impacted my family and I personally. The idea of sitting in silence for an hour seemed almost impossible. After all, I struggled with even five minute meditations so how on earth would I manage an hour and not be fidgety. The first 15-20 minutes was difficult. Where do I look? Should I keep my eyes open? Where do I put my hands? What should I think about? Should I think at all or try to clear my mind? However, after that initial time frame, I felt the tension in my body melt away. My mind feeling free to do whatever it wanted to do, flow wherever it wanted to naturally, and I felt the Spirit present in the room. As we went around and did introductions and check ins, I felt a sense of community that was different from UU. Different, but parallel in many ways. I have since been exploring Quakerism as a second spiritual identity. I am grateful to be part of a liberal religious community where I can develop and explore my own spiritual path.
Another thing is discovering a new way to combine ministry and advocacy that I hadn’t even thought of. I have enjoyed putting together services that involve people in the congregation. People and youth who haven’t taken part before. Lifting voices, giving others the option to share their story. I’m really looking forward to seeing were the Spirit leads me in the next 12 months.