As I paced the gate area at the Atlanta airport, all the clichés applied. My mind was racing. My heart was sinking. My stomach was knotting up. I knew something life-altering had just happened to me, and I was terrified.
I was on my way home, you see, from the very first conference offered by The Young Clergy Women Project.
I went because it sounded like fun to meet other female ministers under age 40. We’re in short (but growing) supply in Baptist life and in Alabama. And the trip was completely underwritten by the grant that birthed TYCWP, do what did I have to lose?
A lot, as it turned out. I lost the constraints I’d put on my own call to ministry. I lost the isolation that fed my sense of being a victim of the patriarchy. (That’s not to say that patriarchy is dead!) I also lost my will to start my new position, which I was due to report for the day after I returned home. Oops.
Those who would save their lives must lose them, Jesus tells us. And this saving through losing is why I plan my summers around TYCWP conferences. Because I year after year, in the company of awe-inspiring clergywomen, I lose narrowness of vision, doubts about myself, and hopelessness over the current state of the church. And in all of this loss, my ministry and my emotional and spiritual health are saved over and over.
But my renewed life is not the only gain – I largely attribute my son’s existence to a vision that was shaken loose at a TYCWP gathering. I cannot imagine my world without him, and I have hope for the world he will grow up in because of the prophets and priests I have met through TYCWP.
I will age out of TYCWP next year, and that’s ok. I will still look for ways to support my youngest colleagues, and I will re-join some fabulous alumnae. But until then, I anticipate Vancouver. And I urge you in the strongest possible terms to find your peers, your cohort, your tribe if you haven’t yet. Your ministry depends on it, and the in-transition church and our unsettled world need your ministry.
Photo courtesy of The Young Clergy Women Project.