Introduction – 56.4
Sally Ann McKinsey
Rev. Fred Rogers is famous for using his acceptance speech for his 1997 Emmy award as a time to invite everyone in the room to take ten seconds “to think of the people who have helped you become who you are.” Fred kept the time as the whole auditorium kept silence together.
Blest Be the Tie That Binds, ink on paper, Jennifer Bunge
Rev. Steve Bacon, who now smiles in the company of saints, is one of the many on my list. Steve was a mentor for me early in my ministry and often shared a peanut butter sandwich lunch with my colleagues and me while I served as a pastoral resident at Central Presbyterian Church in Atlanta. Steve was our administrative supervisor, but during those peanut butter sandwich lunches at the round table in the office, we were pastors reflecting together on the strange and varied tasks of clergy, sharing a chuckle or a tear with our potato chips. It was there that I learned the necessity of colleagues in ministry. With seasoned presence and humble wisdom, Steve listened as we expressed some of the anxieties we faced in ministry and allowed us to listen as he did as well. His curiosity welcomed our unique instincts and new questions about how to order ministry anew in a changing world.
Whether a church member, pastor, musician, artist, or ruling elder, I’m sure we each have those people who have “loved us into being,” as Fred Rogers said. We may all have our own version of round table conversations over peanut butter sandwiches with colleagues in ministry. This journal is, in its own way, a lunch table we share from our various locations and contexts. The support, encouragement, and time we give one another during these conversations are vital to the health of the church.
This is the third in a series of three issues that take their name from the Baptism, Eucharist, and Ministry document produced by the Faith and Order division of the World Council of Churches in 1982. The theme “Ministry” is a broad one. An exploration of ministry can leave us looking outward, considering conversations about evangelism and mission partnerships. It can also leave us looking inward, reflecting on the role of ministers of all kinds in the work of the church and examining our own assumptions about what it means to be pastor, elder, member, musician. The articles in this issue call us in both directions, finding unity in a concern for the relationships we cultivate with one another. “Interdependence will save us,” preaches Erina Kim-Eubanks in her sermon “Bearing Burdens Together,” featured in this issue. Relationships built on mutuality, love, and respect on our church staffs and sessions and in our pews and choir lofts form us for ministry beyond the church walls. Offering gratitude and trust to one another in the spirit of God’s grace will carry us through urgent and exhausting times.
How are we to order ministry in these urgent and exhausting times? Cindy Kohlmann offers an investigation of ordination in theology and practice that begins with membership, and Nikki Collins, the coordinator for 1001 New Worshiping Communities, reflects on overtures passed at the 225th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) that impact polity concerns around ordination. She asks whether the church is courageous enough to change policies that exclude pastors who are immigrants or leaders of new worshiping communities that have been formed in unique and various ways. Through a conversation with the Book of Order, Brian Coulter also wonders about how the Ministry of Word and Sacrament is being transformed because of the new ways we are called to do ministry in a hurting world. Phillip Morgan offers resources for choosing music in services of ministerial transitions and milestones, moments in the life of a congregation that offer space to reflect on the theology of ordered ministry in worship.
How can the arts serve as sites for discovery about God’s call and mission? Riana Shaw Robinson shares a sermon that asks questions about the voices we consider authoritative and invites us to listen actively to voices that have been silenced in Scripture, in preaching, in our communities, and in the arts. Artist Steve Prince reflects on his work Rosa Sparks through the lens of an experience in which he became “a spark” to another in need. John Sawyer explores pandemic discoveries about the ministry of the voice as he investigates how congregational song has changed but remains vital as ever. Sally Lawrence Jenkins’s carefully woven words in her poem “Shepherds” reveal theological discoveries found in relationships of care.
In the Work of Our Hands section of this issue, Marissa I. Galván Valle and Lionel Derenoncourt share their experience making a prayer garden on their church grounds, a work of art that is also a gathering space for enacting liturgy, sharing conversation, and offering prayer. Lolimarta Ros Reiter writes about the influence of child theologies on her ministry and calls us to recognize the current ministry of children and youth, who teach us the art of imagination and interdependence. Youth preachers Sydney McGough and Charles Robertson offer proclamations that demonstrate deep theological wisdom and call us to listen to the voices of ministers who are children and youth in our communities.
May we take time to give thanks for those of all ages and stages in life who have helped us become who we are, those who have upheld us, that we might uphold another in ministry along the way. Some of those may even be contributors to this issue! Take ten seconds to think of those whose ministries have invited you through the Holy Spirit to glimpse God’s abundant grace. I’ll keep the time.
Sally Ann McKinsey, Managing Editor