Eight years ago an invitation that I couldn’t resist came through my inbox. It was a forwarded email about a preaching conference at the Cathedral College – otherwise known as Hogwarts for clergy – in Washington, D.C. It was the inaugural gathering for The Young Clergy Women Project, part research pool for TYCWP’s amazing founder Susan Olson and part newly-forming tribe.
It would take volumes to recount the ways that TYCWP, and the annual conferences in particular, have shaped me vocationally and personally. But here are a few highlights:
2007 conference (Washington, D.C.) – I was struck by the realizations that I do in fact enjoy preaching and that I might have a viewpoint worth sharing. This knowledge sent me into a tailspin, as I was starting a new call the following week that did not involve preaching.
2008 conference (Washington, D.C.) – My peers helped me think through the tough end to my non-preaching call and discern possible new beginnings. I also became the chair of TYCWP’s community board.
2009 board meeting (St. Louis, M.O.) – When the Cathedral College ended its residential program, TYCWP took a year to consider whether it had the need and the capacity to continue offering annual conferences. When the board decided to give it a go, I had the opportunity to grow a whole new skill set in event planning and to work with a great team on a very intense task.
2010 conference (Atlanta, G.A.) – The conference planning team left it all on the plenary room floor. Our lessons learned, I believe, helped planning teams in the succeeding years create even better experiences. I also had my first real exposure to clergy coaching, which naturally was important to my decision to become a coachee and then a coach.
2011 conference (Durham, N.C.) – In a stunning moment of clarity, facilitated by the keynote speaker, I saw a vision of a toddler running from me to my husband, thus answering the long-held question about whether we should and would become parents.
2012 conference (Chicago, I.L.) – When I nearly hurled on my cabmates on the way to and from a dinner on the river, I realized that I could possibly be on the way to becoming the parent I saw in my vision. (I was.)
2013 conference (Nashville, T.N.) – I intended to skip this conference because I had a two-month-old, but I’m so glad I didn’t. My son was surrounded and blessed by women clergy, and he will never need to ask whether women can be preachers too. And even though I was between positions, my clergy-ness was affirmed by people who understand vocational transition and disruption.
I did miss the 2014 conference in Minneapolis, M.N., because of church commitments. But I’m back and making the most of my next-to-last year of eligibility. I can’t wait to share the impact of this year’s conference, happening NOW in Austin, T.X.