I’m a p…..?!

The question we all get asked…

What do you do?

For some of us it’s super easy to answer.

For some of us we pause knowing the reaction to your job can go a few different ways.

Then there’s me, who’s still not sure how to answer. You could also call it disbelief.

I’m a p……

Huh? I’m this thing that I thought I was never going to be. I’m this thing I tried to withdraw from the process of doing. I’m doing this job I’ve not (yet) been ordained to do.

I’m an associate pastor elect (the official term) for Christian Education and Discipleship. If all goes according to plan, I’ll be ordained one week into the new year. I am still in disbelief.

I’m the one who’s tried on many occasions to run from my calling. I’ve believed there are plenty of reasons why God shouldn’t want me as a pastor, yet Gods work in my life doesn’t depend upon just me. There are so many people who have been instrumental in my call to ministry and continue to nurture and guide me. There are also the newer people in my life who sustain me and keep me going in my new role. And each day, I wake up incredibly grateful for where God has called me to serve today.

What we do can feel like such a loaded question.

As a woman in ministry, this feels especially so.
Some do not have positive associations with the church or those in ministry.
Will I be on the receiving end of someone’s animosity against the church?
Will someone have issue with the fact that I am a woman in ministry?

While I could walk around worrying, I’ll hold onto the words of affirmation, gratitude, that affirm I am where I a should be. I will also hold with care the words of the women in my congregation who are grateful for a woman’s voice among the clergy in leadership. I work with two other great pastors, who are gifted in what they do, affirm and encourage me in what I do, and I’m so thankful to call them my colleagues.

Yes, I’m proud to say I’m a pastor, and cannot wait until I’m officially ordained as a minister in Presbyterian Church (USA).

As Presbyterians, we like to do things decently and in order.

To become a pastor there are things you must do. Here are some of those things I’ve had to do:

  • Become an inquire with your home church after 6 months of membership
    (☑️ November 2007 at Three Chopt Presbyterian Church)
  • Be accepted by the CPM as an inquirer
    (☑️ November 2007)
  • Complete a parish internship
    (☑️ August 2008 at Three Chopt Presbyterian Church)
  • Complete a non-parish internship
    (☑️ May 2009 at Virginia Commonwealth University)
  • You must graduate from seminary
    (☑️ May 2009 from Union Presbyterian Seminary)
  • Be accepted by the CPM as a candidate and the presbytery
    (☑️ October 2009)
  • Pass 5 ordination exams on Bible Content, Exegesis, Polity, Theology, and Worship & Sacraments
    (☑️ completed in 2009)
  • Complete a unit of CPE
    (☑️ May 2010)
  • Be certified ready to receive a call by your presbytery’s CPM
    (☑️ October 2020)
  • Find a call, aka a job in ministry
    (☑️ August 2021)
  • Be examined and approved by the presbytery where you will be ordained

In October, I preached before 1/3 of the presbytery, two months after my examination by the COM (committee on ministry) examinations committee. The final step in the ordination process is finally complete.

Could these steps have been completed faster? Absolutely.
Would I be the same person in ministry if I had rushed through them? Absolutely not.

Now I have a service of ordination and installation to finalize and a commission to to have approved by the Presbytery of the James (hopefully today). Theses services are slated for just after Epiphany, as I wanted to ensure that some important people in my journey to ordination could be there. In case you’re not aware, a service in the weeks leading up to or during advent is not an ideal time for those in ministry for an ordination service.

I am beyond excited and grateful for all that has happened and all that comes next.

P.S. If you are someone who has journeyed alongside me in this process… thank you! I seriously, could not do this without you.

Surprises in the Pulpit

I have long wrestled with whether or not to write about this, but I believe silence allows this to continue. For my BIPOC friends, I warn you now that this may be triggering. For that I am sorry, but I am not sorry for being a voice to the struggles we face.

Anyone in ministry knows that there are many unexpected things about working in the church. For those who identify as female, it is a known fact that inappropriate things are said about our bodies in places that are considered sacred. When we thought that the education and experience that we bring is more than sufficient to give us credibility, in an instant someone attempts to reduce us to our appearances.

There are many surprises in the pulpit, or in the areas surrounding them.

One Sunday morning in the autumn of 2020, I was doing pulpit supply for a rural congregation in my presbytery. This was not an unusual thing for me to do, as I have regularly done this since early 2019. I was ever grateful for the opportunity to share the good news, particularly with a congregation in need of someone to preach and lead worship on a given Sunday. What I was not prepared for was what would happen as I prepared to lead a congregation in worship…

The elder who was coordinating pulpit supply confirmed in our call in the week leading up that the church would wear masks if that’s what I wanted. That should have been a red flag already. In the height of the pandemic (November 2020), shouldn’t masks be a given? Upon entering the church I saw that no one had on a mask. I had my mask on and kept some extra distance until others put on theirs.

* Let me pause and make a note.*

At this point in the pandemic, my family was still being very careful. We had high risk family members in our bubble. We had both kids learning virtually to protect our family. We were accepting risk with my doing pulpit supply. Churches doing what they could to be safe were key to helping us protect the vulnerable members of our family.

Let me continue…

The elder with whom I’d been in communication greeted me, discussed logistics, and then reminded folks of the need to wear their masks. In the moments that soon followed, there were a couple of members who began our time together by glaring at me for the majority of the worship service for being told by a church members to put on a mask. This was not the only congregation that resisted masks during the pandemic in my adventures pulpit supply, but theis level of glaring was new.

Even though this was awkward, this wasn’t the most challenging part of the morning…

The elder who was handling worship coordination decided that they would handle announcements, and then hand the service over to me to lead. During the announcements the gentleman shared gratitude for all who came out to decorate the church for Advent (season leading up to Christma)s, and praised some of the young people for helping out too. Then he said he had a great conversation with two of the young people there, and asked them to come forward to share about it.

Man: Do you remember what I asked you yesterday?

One of the girls: Yes, sir.

Man: What’s the difference between a daisy and a dixie? What did you say?

(In this moment, my brain is racing to answer the question. I couldn’t fathom what he was talking about. So I patiently waited for the answer out of curiosity.)

Girl: A Daisy is a flower. A Dixie is a flag.

(The realization hits that I couldn’t answer this question, because it served like a litmus test. If you know the answer, you know. If you do not, you’re not one of them.)

Man: Thank you ladies, you can go sit down.

At this point, the panic was crashing like a wave.

I realize that I do not belong in this place. I am now realizing that this particular church is no longer a safe place. I am looking around in panic for a way to escape…

I was sitting on the chancel (the area where the pulpit is located) and not sure if I could get out of the church. I could go out to my left through the back of the sanctuary and everyone will see me. I could go straight out the back of the sanctuary past everyone, and so they’ll definitely see me and say something. No matter what I do, all eyes will be on me as a I leave. Then I begin to wonder if I really should leave…

Did that man intend for the question to be racist? Do they think the confederate flag is a troubling symbol of racism to those who do not identify as Black or African American? Would it be wrong to leave a church without preacher?

So I made a decision…

In the time that it took for the announcements to finish I tried to quiet the panic in my mind. I prayed that God would grant me peace, fill me with love, and that God’s transformational love would pour forth from me. I am not going to lie and say that all was better in a matter of moments. I will not say that I was not terrified and concerned about my well-being. I will admit that this service was one of the hardest services I have ever had to lead. I will also admit that the feelings of trauma from that day are with me still.

Our words matter.

Two Novembers in a row, I had situations where there were racist interactions that trouble me to this day. I believe what made my experience in November 2019 and 2020 so challenging is that they were subtly and overtly discriminatory, and they were the first experiences I have had like that in a long time. Any BIPOC person can share with you their stories of racism and how they’ve experienced it throughout their life. The sharing of these stories are not easily done as each retelling brings back a tidal wave of feelings, heartbreak, and trauma from moments thought to be long in the past…

  • The moment(s) we were made to feel like the other.
  • The moment(s) we were made to feel like someone who doesn’t belong in a place they thought was safe.
  • The moment(s) we were made to feel like our feelings didn’t matter.

How we speak to and about one another matters. I do not share this experience to disparage the church as a whole. I love the church, despite the failings of its people. The church is where I’ve been called to serve. The church is filled with people who remind me of God’s goodness. Life in community comes with a risk, but it also comes with abundant blessing. I hope and pray to help the church continue to be the place it’s meant to be…

a place of radical hope and love.

all the words that could be said

I could tell you today that my heart is broken, but I think it goes without saying. I could also prattle on about how we need to put an end to the gun violence, but those words have been said abundantly. In light of yet ANOTHER mass shooting, all the words that could be said are spinning through my head.

Rather than tell you how I feel or reflect on how we all might be feel, can I ask you to do one thing?

Will you pray for and love a community that is struggling?

HebrewDawn: Praying for Orlando

We have far too many family members and friends grieving the loss of those they love in senseless act of hate. We also have many brothers and sisters within the LGBTQ community in Orlando and across the nation that are hurting and scared.

Let’s work together to make loving kindness the norm. I think that’s something we can all get behind.

He is Risen

Share the good news that he is risen indeed. Have a blessed and beautiful Easter!


“But the angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, “He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.” This is my message for you.’ So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.” -Matthew 28:5-8 (NRSV)

Get Ready: Easter is Coming


In two short days it will be Holy Week. This means that as Christians, these are the final days of lent which lead us to Easter. Far too often we make a mad dash for Easter Sunday, but this year I’d like to encourage you to slow down. Why you may ask? Easter can’t happen without the days leading up, and we need those days to prepare our hearts and minds too.

Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday, as we remember  Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. For those of us that go to church this Sunday morning, will wave palm branches, and sing Hosanna. We’ll be caught up in the joy of the day and not think much about the journey that Jesus is about to begin. Those closest to Jesus, the disciples, are clueless about what is going to happen to their beloved friend and teacher, despite his many warnings and we’re not all that different. Despite all of our flaws and failings, Jesus knowingly and willingly continues down this road that will lead to his death. With all the hosannas and waves of our palm branches, we tend not to think about the meaning of this day or the week ahead.

As we read through the Gospels on Holy Monday and Tuesday we’re being prepared for what’s to come.  Jesus will be anointed at Bethany, foreshadowing what will happen to him in death. Jesus will again warn his discipes, and us as the readers, of what is coming.  On of his friends will betray him and set the final course of events into action. As if all of this wasn’t enough, another friend will come to deny he ever knew him, his friend and swore he’d never deny and would defend. Thursday will come, and church attendance will go down drastically, before it’s great spike on Easter Sunday.

Thursday is Maundy, or Commandment, Thursday. We often skip up and call this day Monday Thirsday or some funny derivation, because we’re  clueless to what this word preceding Thirsday is. It’s word coming from Middle English, Old French (mandé), and Latin (mandatum) which essentially means commandment.  It was this day that Jesus washed the disciples feet, gave the commandment to love one another, and to remember him in gathering together by sharing the Lord’s Supper. Throughout the year we celebrate this meal, and forget about its humble beginnings. A shared meal with friends made sacred with the sharing of bread and wine  on the eve of the worst day in Jesus’ human life.

img_0668We now come to Friday, that we call Good Friday. It is on this day we remember with solemn hearts the sacrifice that Jesus, makes for us out of God’s great love for each of us. On this day we take time to be humbled, sometimes to the point if tears, of the great sacrifice Jesus makes for us. We slow down and realize that the story of Christianity isn’t just about a cute baby in a stable or just about resurrection. It is on this day that we remember that the story is about life, AND death, AND new life. 

Let us prepare our hearts and minds for the joy of the Easter Sunday, even when it may be a solemn journey along the way.

Quiet Time

I shared the other week that I find it most helpful to wake up earlier than my family and making sure to begin my day with quiet time. That post has led to some folks asking what resources I like to use and how I do my quiet time. So I thought I’d share today!

I’ll begin with opening Shauna Niequist devotional Savor: Living Abundantly Where You Are, As You Are to see what the selected passage of the day is:

Next I’ll read the entire chapter for the selected passage of scripture in my bible. As I go along, I highlight any passages that my “jump” out to me. I try not to analyze or evaluate the passage that sticks out to me, but follow where the spirit leads.


Now I return back to my devotional book to read what thoughts the writer (Shauna in this case) has to say about the piece of scripture I just read. Then I take some time to reflect on the verses of scripture I highlighted in my Bible and what the devotional had to say. Some mornings this can look like me sitting in quiet meditation and prayer. Other mornings, like my ideal morning, I’ll take the time to write out the verses I highlighted and my prayer for the day.

No matter what happens with my time constraints for a  given morning, my focus is first on reading the bible, then considering thoughts of a devotional writer. I find that devotionals are a great start for quiet time for me to know what to read, and provide variety so I’m not reading straight through the bible. I will admit that I’m fairly particular about the devotionals I use because some writers like to cherry pick scripture, aka pick scripture that fits what they’re trying to say, but the verse may not mean what they think. I do recognize that many devotionals are written by folks with no theological training, so their writing comes from the heart, not necessarily from a scholarly perspective. But the Bible scholar in me dies a little inside when I see this happen and I turn away from what could have been a great resource.
I will admit it’s hard for me to find a daily devotional written by a biblical scholar of the Old and New testament that provides the reflective imagery I personally desire. I will  accept what I can get and have have found three favorite devotionals to this day:

  1. Savor: Living Abundantly Where You Are, As You Are by Shauna Niequist
  2. Streams in the Desert by L.B. Cowman
  3. My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers

How do you spend your quiet time?

Please note there are some affiliate links in this post. As always, I only link to products I trust and use!

The Joyful Feast

Worship with a two year old may not always be as calm or introspective as it was before having a child, but it has definitely become more meaningful. I’ve shared before that we try each week to keep VHP in service with us and she is beginning to really understand the different parts of the service. She has come to love passing the peace, loves to sing, and really looks forward to communion (Eucharist). Watching my little girl’s faith  blossom and grow is one of my greatest joys.

A few weeks ago I had a moment that nearly made this mama cry watching her little girl in worship. As is often the case, we didn’t make it through the entire sermon before we needed to step out of the sanctuary into the hallways to get some wiggles out. Thankfully we can still hear what’s happening through the speaker and soon it was time for communion. VHP was anxious to head back in as soon as the pastor began to say the words of institution, break the bread, and pour wine (juice in this case) into the cup. When the feast was set we made the attempt to quietly head back to our seats and wait our turn, but VHP was too excited to be quiet. She squealed and tried to run forward, and I managed to catch her before she took off for the front of the sanctuary. Miraculously this did not result in a toddler fit of screaming!

source: https://stocksnap.io/photo/P7JB9GA027


We waited our turns and held hands as we walked forward. The church member who was serving the bread leaned down so VHP could help me break off a piece of bread for her. This little girl tore off the biggest piece of bread she’s ever had for communion! Then our pastor leaned down to her level with the cup so she could dip the bread herself. VHP then slurped up her bread and juice as if it was the best meal of her life, and had the biggest smile on her face. Mommy may have helped break the bread, but she essentially had communion all on her own. Watching how our church family helped her partake of this meal put a whole new meaning on the phrase “the joyful feast of the Lord.”

Peace Be With You

Evenings in the Parker family can be a mix of sweet and chaotic, but on your average Wednesday chaotic seems a little more accurate of a description. I rush from work eager to see my daughter and I’m greeted with squeals and hugs. Sometime after that delightful greeting, I encounter this rage-filled demonic being toddler who is angry with me over God knows what. My great sin could that I buckled her car seat rather than allowing her to do it, I used the keys to drive the car rather than let her hold them, or I dared to make dinner without allowing her to help with every step of the process. Whatever the case may be, there is great angst between pick-up and dinner being set on the table. If I’m lucky there are other sweet moments before bed, but there are nights there is a long wait for bedtime.

Last Wednesday evening was a night with more delightful moments than I could have expected from my two year old. I expected things to be like most nights in which VHP gets her plate first and begins inhaling her food before my husband and I can sit down to the table to eat as a family. Instead our little big girl was nibbling at her food trying to wait for us to come to the table. Once my husband and I sat down we began to eat our meal, because we were starving. Instead of digging in too, VHP fussed at us adults. “No eat yet, pray,” she declared. My gracious, us adults completely forgot to bless the meal and she kept us in check! My husband asked her if she wanted to say the prayer and she agreed.

“Dear God. Thank you soup. Amen.”

Her prayer was much simpler than her first mealtime prayer and much more to the point than her friend Elle’s, but it was enough to convey thanks for the soup her daddy made.

The fact that she at two reminded us to bless the meal melted my heart, but it turns out she was not finished. Shortly after dinner I was taking on kitchen clean-up and it was my husband handling bedtime. We were all getting bedtime hugs and kisses, which turned into us receiving a few bise (French for kisses on the cheek). Next came more toddler of fun like high fives and fist bumps.When I thought we were finally done, VHP came back for more bise. Or so I thought. She asked for my husbands hand and then said what we thought was “bise” again. But my husband realized she was saying “peace”.

Suddenly it hit me that my daughter was passing the peace to my husband like we do on Sunday mornings at church. He responded as if the custom at church by saying, “and also with you” and gave her the biggest hug. Before I could catch my breath, it was my turn to receive the Peace of Christ from my daughter. She turned to me and said “peace to you”.  My heart was and still is so full. The adults at our church have no idea that by passing the peace to our little girl how much they have taught her. Since she was a baby in worship members have greeted her during the passing of the peace, and still do. VHP has been paying attention more than we knew, and is taking what she learns in church out into the world with her.

Raising a Child of Faith – Public Prayer

Last month I shared about my daughter’s first prayer on her own. Today I’d like to share another Raising a Child of Faith story about a girl I’ll refer to as Elle. Her mom is a dear friend of mine from our time together in seminary, and though distance may separate us, I’m glad she’s on this parenting journey with me. Our daughters were born just 4 days apart, and I love hearing what they’re experiencing at almost the exact same time. Both of our girls are learning about their faith, and today I’ll share a story about Elle, her mom, and her impactful  prayer.

Each year Elle’s daddy has to take a trip out of town for a conference for a few days. Elle’s parents are quite the team, but this trip means that my friend is flying solo in mommy land (shout out to you single parents, you’re rock stars for doing this around the clock). Thankfully a dear church members takes Elle and her mommy out at least once for a special date while daddy is gone. For the 2016 conference, dinner with this member became even more meaningful when the mundane became the sacred at dinner.

For some people praying out loud before a meal in a public restaurant is uncomfortable experience. For Elle and her family, it’s the norm. Maybe it’s because her daddy is a pastor, but public prayer is the norm none the less. On this particular night, the adults followed their usual plan and said the prayer before the meal. For Elle this wasn’t good enough, and responded with “more pray.” Her request isn’t abnormal at home to pray more, but this time it was at a local Cracker Barrel. She felt the need to pray more for their meal.

This might not seem like that big of a deal to some, but Elle is only two years old. It’s only been in recent weeks that she has been the one to say the prayer at meals or bedtime, rather than her parents. On this particular night it was also the first that she said the prayer while dining out in public. She said:
Elle’s prayer was so simple, yet so sweet and just what needs to be said at a meal. What I love about Elle’s prayer is that her prayer wasn’t just special to her mom, myself, or those that know her. Apparently one of the servers heard her prayer, and slipped her mommy this note:IMG_0570
You never know the difference you’re making in the life of your child and those that you may encounter. If you’re ever called upon to say the mealtime prayer, may I recommend Elle’s prayer? Go forth and be the salt of the earth.

Have a story you’d like to share? I’d love to hear it! Also, if you have a Raising a Child of Faith story you’d like to share on HebrewDawn, please be sure to send me a note (hello at hebrewdawn.com).

“Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.” Matthew 5:14 (NRSV)