My granddaughter Hannah regularly appears in a Moment Garden carefully tilled by her mother. The title of my blog today sounds like I am starting one of those for our new pastor Rachel! But I am not, even though she is precious, just like you, and even though I would actually like to start a garden for both of you.
I am writing because I want to make sure there is enough celebration of who she is and what she has done! We are so comfortable with each other we just mix and match and ooze around in our pack without too much fanfare. We can forget how significant it is to risk leading the church. The church (especially ours) is an entity reliant on the love and sharing of its people. It does not sell products to sustain itself. So a leader called out to lead and so be dependent on the church for their livelihood is subject to a month like September when we got about 2/3 of our sharing goal. Rachel is risking that.
And lest we forget, Rachel is a woman. That should not be such a big deal since the distinctions and enmities between male and female are of no account in Christ. But it is a big deal (still!). Being a woman pastor is still odd. We just had the Pope come through and remind us that in most places a woman pastor is forbidden like forbidding it is in the Bible! We called her to lead us and she said yes. That is a big deal and I think everyone reading this should be proud of themselves for making it happen.
Rachel could have done something else, you know. She had a career as an HIV/AIDs worker and therapist that was more convenient and lucrative than being our pastor. She could have not disrupted her marriage and family by adding a demanding workload and unusual expectations to them. She could have done what she knew how to do rather than taking on a rare set of requirements a pastor discovers as she goes along. Thank you for giving yourself to us, Rachel. Thank you Jeff, Zach and Cori for supporting her!
Rachel is great. She is brave. It is not easy (or even recommended) to take on a role the founding pastor had. Even though I am still pastor, I am not pastor like I used to be. It takes some courage to sign up for that. Rachel did that. Rachel is warm and wise. When we asked the Leadership Team to share some words about our pastors last summer people noted her empathy and thoughtfulness. She connects and listens. I know from working with her for several years that she is calm, devoted, teachable and faithful – a great pastor. She is a good pastor for me — and I am not that easy!
I could go on, but let me get you into this, too. Circle of Hope should be celebrated for growing Rachel into this role. The Holy Spirit did it, of course, but we had to show up too, along with Rachel. The fact that you can grow people into leaders, then deploy and pay them, then accept and nurture them makes you great, too. If you have not been in too many churches, you probably don’t know how rare you really are. All your pastors were nurtured “through the ranks.” They have been known and grown to exercise their gifts, just as I hope you feel known and grown to exercise the grace you’ve been given. Rachel at one month reminds me again of how blessed I feel by the fact that we’re an actual church, doing what Jesus in us does — and enjoying the flowering of one of our own.