Today, Friday September 18, 2009 is the 8th anniversary of my Ordination to the Christian Ministry. I was ordained within the faith community of the Jamaica Baptist Union (JBU), and installed that same day as Pastor of the Stewart Town Circuit of Baptist Churches. This was the same circuit of 3 congregations; Stewart Town Baptist (in photo above), Faith Baptist in Jackson Town, and Keith Baptist in Keith, St. Ann.
I still find it hard to believe its been only 10 years since my graduation from seminary, the United Theological College of the West Indies (UTCWI), and 8 years since ordination after completing the JBU’s mandatory minimum 2 year probationary period. Perhaps 8 years seem like nothing to you, given your own unique life circumstances. However, all my experiences since 1999 and later 2001 have convinced me that, its been 8 extraordinary years. And that’s putting it mildly.
I knew before I ‘signed up’ that I had a challenging life ahead of me. Yet I have to say that there were some life changing moments, for which no amount of preparation could have made me ready. And there have also been tremendous blessings that I could never have conjured up in my wildest dreams. What a journey…..
So I pause today to reflect on the past 8 years, and to seek greater clarity on the possibilities that lie ahead.
I mark these 8 years proud to be part of the unique family of the JBU in which I was raised, nurtured, discipled, called, trained and accredited to exercise ministry in Jamaica and beyond its shores. If I had to do it over again, I would choose no other faith community. I am proud of our rich Jamaica Baptist heritage, spawned amidst the bloodshed my African ancestors in partnership with English missionaries.
Yet, in confession I also mark this 8th year as I look back at the times when I have;
- felt ashamed to be one of the ‘ground-staff’ of the Church across the world busy being something else other than the body of Christ, broken, salted and set ablaze to transform the world.
So I today I ask again for myself and others Holy Spirit, set our hearts on fire!
- been saddened by the shameless disunity and divisiveness among the people of God and wonder about the future of collegiality, ecumenism and interfaith cooperation in ministry when selfishness, competition, and enmity are the current trends.
So today I pray for myself and others Lord, make us one!
- grown increasingly disturbed that this year marks 20 years since the JBU accepted and sent to UTCWI our 1st woman Rev. Doreen Wynter to be trained for the ordained ministry. I became the 3rd Jamaican woman to start training 6 years later and today 20 years past and 14 women trained and in the field we are no closer to overcoming our denial of the sexism. Discrimination against women is growing more fierce in the backlash against Womanist/Feminist theologizing in our denomination, the wider Baptist family and the global Church.
I pray for myself and others, Divine Sofia teach us your truth!
Why then have I stayed on this course in light of all I’ve confessed?
Yesterday, one of my dearest friends sent me a very touching letter to mark this anniversary with me. I was both surprised and moved by the fact that he remembered and reminded me of the recessional hymn, I Am The Way that I chose to close the service back in 2001. The full hymn is posted here but here are the lines my friend shared with me:
I am the Vine, you shall abide in Me,
I am the River, you shall be cleansed in Me,
I am the Rock, you shall have life in Me;
I am your brother, living in flesh with thee,
I am your Saviour, dying on Calvary,
I am your God, rising in victory
[UTCWI Graduating Class of 1999 - Where am I?]
Lest you think that I’m camping out in a cave in Panama complaining to God that I’m the last prophetess left, I not only confess but I celebrate the joys of this challenging ordained life that finds meaning in the One who is:
Way, Truth, Light,
Vine, River, Rock,
Brother, Saviour, God.
Today I can firmly say, that it is God’s grace that has kept me and brought me this far and it is this same grace I depend on to see me along each step of rest of the journey. I celebrate that;
- I remain convicted of my sense of call.
- I experience Christ in the constancy of affirmation of said call through individuals and communities at home and abroad.
- God provides genuine friends who support me in good and bad times and help me dig deeper to re-discover my own strength.
- In places far away, among peoples previously unknown strangers become friends and the alienated are reconciled.
- In the deserted places and among the lonely in this virtually shrinking world, Spirit connects us and we know we are not alone.
- In the wasteland of academic accomplishments for posturing and empty prattling, the gifts of intellect, perception and discernment become light to dispel darkeness and transform the landscape of this world.
And so I pray, God of Grace , grant us widsom and courage for the facing of this hour!
And the journey continues…