FTE’s Ministry Exploration and Mentoring Grant; The grant was such a tremendous blessing as it enabled me to develop relationships with women that have utilized their experience and/or understanding of grief in their respective ministries.

"> Affirmations of Calling | Forum for Theological Exploration A Reflection on My Ministry Exploration and Mentoring Grant Experience | Forum for Theological Exploration The Sublime Power of Belief | Forum for Theological Exploration The Ministry of Surrender | Forum for Theological Exploration The Stillness | Forum for Theological Exploration Racism: The Most Sinful of Legacies | Forum for Theological Exploration What Is Thy Name | Forum for Theological Exploration Active Faith is Urgent | Forum for Theological Exploration Re-Arranged by the Spirit | Forum for Theological Exploration To Follow a Call | Forum for Theological Exploration Where Two or Three Are Gathered | Forum for Theological Exploration Tooth Fairy | Forum for Theological Exploration Marking Vocational Transitions Faithfully | Forum for Theological Exploration Mission Year to attend FTE’s Discernment Retreat in Lake Arrowhead, California.

"> Our Becoming | Forum for Theological Exploration Falling Deeper Into My Calling | Forum for Theological Exploration Let the Streets Inspire You | Forum for Theological Exploration Whose Name is on the Invitation? | Forum for Theological Exploration The Feeble Art of Radical Hospitality | Forum for Theological Exploration Finding God in the Rabbit Trail | Forum for Theological Exploration What is Worship to Me | Forum for Theological Exploration A Resolution for Religion | Forum for Theological Exploration I am a Pile of Trash | Forum for Theological Exploration Critical Feeling | Forum for Theological Exploration “Do you not perceive it?” Isaiah 43:19 | Forum for Theological Exploration Buddy Crossed the Line | Forum for Theological Exploration Campus Ministries Shaping the Future | Forum for Theological Exploration Teaching Theology after Ferguson | Forum for Theological Exploration Imagination Next | Forum for Theological Exploration Campus Ministries that Stick | Forum for Theological Exploration How to Harness the Awkward Pause | Forum for Theological Exploration In Praise of Small Spaces | Forum for Theological Exploration Culture Shock | Forum for Theological Exploration Can We Keep Our Promises? | Forum for Theological Exploration Living Stream Church of the Brethren.

"> Innovative Ministries: Stepping outside my box | Forum for Theological Exploration Attentiveness and Practices in Christian Ministry | Forum for Theological Exploration Conducting My Beautiful, Cacophonous Clone Choir | Forum for Theological Exploration Can you Repack That? | Forum for Theological Exploration A Christian Take on Mindfulness | Forum for Theological Exploration The Building of Community in Unlikely Places | Forum for Theological Exploration Compensation for Being | Forum for Theological Exploration Transitioning-into-Ministry (TiM) Participants Gathering. The first year I thought it was a fluke. The second year I was looking for it. This year, I was expecting it. What was is “it”? The power of a room.

"> The Power of a Room | Forum for Theological Exploration Communication as an Art | Forum for Theological Exploration Shhhhhhhh! | Forum for Theological Exploration Do We Know Enough About Other Religions? | Forum for Theological Exploration Is the Institutional Church Worth Saving? | Forum for Theological Exploration A Muddy Epiphany | Forum for Theological Exploration Prayers on the Wind | Forum for Theological Exploration Vocation and Inspiration | Forum for Theological Exploration What a Vocational Calling to Ministry Means to Me | Forum for Theological Exploration The Anti-Tourism of Meditation | Forum for Theological Exploration When Lions Have Historians | Forum for Theological Exploration Seeking the Kingdom—and Finding It | Forum for Theological Exploration Cultivating Quality Leadership for a Sustainable Church | Forum for Theological Exploration Single-Leader-Centered vs Group-Centered Leadership | Forum for Theological Exploration Leadership Capacities Every Young Pastor Must Learn | Forum for Theological Exploration Freedom to Flunk | Forum for Theological Exploration National Festival of Young Preachers. Originally published on The Huffington Post.

Let us take a moment to look at what Hebrew Scripture teaches about Sabbath. In Exodus, the longest of the 10 commandments says that we should do all our work in six days but on the seventh we should not do any work, nor should we allow anyone else to work—not our children, not those who serve us, not the resident aliens, not even our livestock and animals. (Exodus 20: 8-11) Everybody gets a day off.

Our scriptures understand it. Our story tells it. But do we imbibe it? Do we speak the language of Sabbath?

"> There is No Rest | Forum for Theological Exploration A Musical Ministry | Forum for Theological Exploration Reflections on the Samuel Dewitt Proctor Conference | Forum for Theological Exploration Volunteers Update from Nashville | Forum for Theological Exploration Love and Imperfection | Forum for Theological Exploration Here Comes a Happy Minister | Forum for Theological Exploration Turn, Turn, Turn | Forum for Theological Exploration Ashes to Ashes | Forum for Theological Exploration Finding God and Health In The Experience of Storytelling | Forum for Theological Exploration Come Saturday Morning | Forum for Theological Exploration Stumbling Into the Digital Reformation | Forum for Theological Exploration 20 Steps to a Renewed Church | Forum for Theological Exploration church is boring,” some 20+ million results appear, much of it, well, very, very boring…). But this time was different…

"> Bored to Tears: An Act of Contrition for Young Adult Believers | Forum for Theological Exploration 20 Steps to a Renewed Church (posted on April 8th). At first, I didn’t think I had anything more to say than I’d already said. Plus, the mere mention of Church Issues makes me want to fill my backpack with trail mix and furs and head into the Alaskan wilderness indefinitely. But then… what I got to ponder was how easy it is to spout off a Manifesto For How To Live, and how hard it is to actually live. So, here’s my follow-up to the original post.

"> Making the Church More Accessible to Folks Under 35 | Forum for Theological Exploration Bin Laden’s Death | Forum for Theological Exploration Digital Mind and Divine Calling (Part 1 of 2) | Forum for Theological Exploration Digital Mind and Divine Calling (Part 2 of 2) | Forum for Theological Exploration Camping’s Family Radio’s website “proves” through some dizzying mathematics that Jesus will come to usher in the eschaton (the end of time).

Here are three reasons I gave why the world will (most likely) not end on May 21, 2011:

"> It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine) | Forum for Theological Exploration Unbolting the Door: Musings of a Former Volunteer | Forum for Theological Exploration 2011 Leaders in the Academy Conference. After all, in the pursuit for excellence in scholarship in our fields of theological education, we are on a quest. This quest encompasses, as Dr. Emilie M. Townes proclaimed in celebration of the great legacy of Dr. Sharon Watson Fluker, great oeuvres along the way.

"> Colonizer or Co-learner? | Forum for Theological Exploration

On Saturday, June 4th, FTE doctoral and dissertation fellows attended the panel Scholarship in Dialogue with Diaspora: A Reflective Conversation. Drs. Diakite, Hucks, Braga, Hopkins, and Lartey reflected on experiences with African and African diasporic communities. Among others, the theme of identity played a critical role in the reflections. The thrust of these comments was that theological and religious discourse in both the church and academy must resist the tendency to define Christian identity in terms of a bipolar, exclusionary logic that consecrates a hierarchy in which the Christian is naturally superior to the heathen. As Christian pastors, preachers, and educators, we must begin to think about ways of conceiving our personal, congregational, and denominational identities in ways that admit the ambiguity of distinctive qualities between saved and sinner, church and world, “us” and “them.”

"> Beyond the Borders of Identity | Forum for Theological Exploration 2011 Leaders in Ministry Conference in New Orleans, LA

It seems like talk of “practices” is popular again. People and groups both inside and outside the church are re-discovering that our faith is not just about beliefs or intellectual affirmation but about a way of life, a way of living, that connects us to one another and to God. These are not in and of themselves “salvific.” In other words, practices for practices sake, for getting our own spiritual fix, are not transformative, are not converting. But if we engage them with…

"> Embodying the Practices | Forum for Theological Exploration FTE Leaders in Minstry Conference in New Orleans is so powerful that I feel compelled to try to put it into words. Why? I have experienced community, and it is good.

I don’t actually remember how I came across this fellowship. It may have been suggested to me by my pastor or possibly the seminary I will be attending. What I do know is that despite my research, I had no idea what to expect when I left for my trip to New Orleans. In my wildest imaginations, I would not have pictured what this conference has become for me.

"> Learning a New Normal | Forum for Theological Exploration 2011 Leaders in Ministry Conference in New Orleans, LA

Day 1: Getting off of the airplane and touching ground in New Orleans, I let go of my worries, frustrations, anxieties of home life and welcomed in the spirit of God to fill me with the comfort of simply being present, listening and conversing with others on their journey of faith as spiritual social change agents in a world of complacency and despair. I am honored to be in the company of such greatness of minds and comforted in the knowing there is hope for the Christian church and hope does not disappoint…

"> You have been invited, all are welcome . . . | Forum for Theological Exploration 2011 Leaders in Ministry Conference in New Orleans, LA

As we left the airport and boarded the bus to go from the airport to Dillard University where the conference is being hosted, I was assaulted with the heat and humidity of the Southern summer. Riding through the traffic on the freeway, I looked out the window wondering if I would catch glimpses of the damage and recovery from Hurricane Katrina. We exited the freeway and were stopped at a red light and I saw a person on the side of the road “panhandling.” He had written some illegible words on a sign he was holding that I couldn’t read. But I caught a glimpse of the back of the sign which used to hang at an apartment complex and read “The American Dream, for rent now!” I was struck by the completely contradictory message, this guy was definitely not experiencing the American Dream standing on that corner in the oppressive heat and humidity.

"> Hanging out in New Orleans with a bunch of aspiring pastors. . . | Forum for Theological Exploration conference in New Orleans this year. Two uncertainties already in my mind: what is a ministry conference like and how does New Orleans look after two Gulf Coast disasters? The shuttle from the airport to Dillard University was cold and full of chattering voices. I observed how we instinctually categorized each other: What kind of Fellow? What denomination? What seminary? The words felt empty when I said them. They did not actually say much about who I was. It was like placing everyone on a map and we’d only just met ten minutes ago.

"> A Taste for What we are Missing | Forum for Theological Exploration Lilly Residency Program at the First Presbyterian Church in Ann Arbor, MI I took a call as an Associate Pastor in a small city in Michigan. Knowing that the adjustment would not be an easy one, and reflecting on what I had learned from my time in the Lily program, I decided that the first thing I needed was colleagues who could also be friends. So, I went in search of colleagues in the hopes of also finding friends. Knowing I would have a colleague in my Head of Staff, in other clergy in town, and in my governing body, I wanted to seek out colleagues who were in a similar place in ministry—so I sought out young women clergy.

"> Women Clergy Need Girlfriends | Forum for Theological Exploration Academy of Preachers.

I am two days into a five-day camp, and my mind has been kneaded and sculpted so much in these short hours that I feel my brain must resemble a beloved can of Play-dough. The kneading is a result of love and affection, and it is with the endless possibility of my new intellectual “toys” that I have begun to discover something I can hardly believe I didn’t notice before.

There is no escaping tension.

"> The Tension of God’s Dance Floor | Forum for Theological Exploration Academy of Young Preachers, and the FTE staff did a great job of creating a space where learning and development could take place both as preachers and as the people who have been called to preach.

"> We are Not Walking Alone | Forum for Theological Exploration Beyond Religious Illiteracy | Forum for Theological Exploration If the Gospel Gathers… | Forum for Theological Exploration Finding Purpose in the Field | Forum for Theological Exploration blog. There is something about Christian language in the air!

The “age of the rage for literacy” has arrived at all levels of the Christian conversation. There is also a rush to “describe and denounce religious illiteracy,” but neither advocating for Christian literacy nor decrying illiteracy is very helpful if you can’t describe the next step, so that is what I intend to add to the conversation.

"> Becoming Playfully Orthodox To Speak “Christian” as a Second Language | Forum for Theological Exploration The Church: Accountable to the Transformation it Promises (1 of 2) | Forum for Theological Exploration The Church: Accountable to the Transformation it Promises (2 of 2) | Forum for Theological Exploration Fund for Theological Education (FTE), and he began telling us about the exciting work that FTE has done in developing what it calls VocationCARE.

"> Awakening Courage | Forum for Theological Exploration The “Snowflake” Church | Forum for Theological Exploration Calling Congregations Conference with a small team of my colleagues from Life Together, the Episcopal Service Corps young adult intern program in Boston. I experienced VocationCARE as a set of practices that intend to enliven individuals and communities, with the potential to deepen our relationship to God, to ourselves, to each other and our communities.

"> In the Body of Faith and Hope | Forum for Theological Exploration 2011 Calling Congregations Conference

House for All Sinners and Saints is a community of theologians of the cross. Of such theologians, Martin Luther famously argued they were made “by living, nay by dying and by being damned.” It is such a belief that informs HFASS’ ethos of “anti-excellence, pro-participation.” We have become the church we are, not through pursuing programs, but by living, dying, and yes, sometimes being damned, through the messy, unclean, and ecstatically wonderful task of being a church of producers, not consumers; participants, not spectators; failures, not models.

"> Becoming a Church of the Cross | Forum for Theological Exploration Reasons for Hope: A Dialogue on the Christian Future” featuring Barbara Wheeler and Richard J. Mouw. Jointly sponsored by The Christian Century and Christianity Today, the event brought together two respected leaders in theological education, each of whom I knew to be an articulate representative of her or his respective liberal or conservative Protestant camp. I was also aware…

"> The Categories Aren’t Working Anymore | Forum for Theological Exploration Ecumenical Bounty: A New Framework for the LGBTQ Conversation. | Forum for Theological Exploration Changing Systems, Personally | Forum for Theological Exploration Nurturing the Next Generation of Scholars workshops at the 2009 Annual Meetings of the American Academy of Religion (AAR) and Society of Biblical Literature (SBL).

"> Tips for Preparing a Strong Graduate Application | Forum for Theological Exploration Radical Trust: Our Christian Roots | Forum for Theological Exploration

Affirmations of Calling

By: Natasha Patterson
August 27, 2015

I have been reminded that ministry sounds different, looks different, and is different for each ministerial leader but the call to go and to do remains.

“Do not go where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

I had the opportunity to meet and engage women of color that have pursued ministry and preaching as a vocation through FTE’s Ministry Exploration and Mentoring Grant1. The grant was such a tremendous blessing as it enabled me to develop relationships with women that have utilized their experience and/or understanding of grief in their respective ministries. These women, pioneers in their own right, were able to create history by voyaging into unchartered territories and doing the work God called them to do.

Rev. Carolyn Dyson, one whom I was privileged to meet, described her call to ministry as embarking on a “journey I knew nothing about.” By being true to herself and obedient to the spirit, doors began to open, opportunities manifested and barriers were dismantled. I have been reminded that ministry sounds different, looks different, and is different for each ministerial leader but the call to go and to do remains.

As I contemplated what made my call and approach to ministry unique, I considered the wisdom from one of my mentors, Bridget Piggue. In our time together this year, she encouraged me to think outside of the box. Bridget invited me to explore non-traditional means of accomplishing a particular task that would yield to my personal skills, gifts and abilities.

In a world that is ever-evolving, I have been reminded of the need to be innovative, creative and adaptable.

This summer I was invited to participate in my first youth revival as the guest preacher. In preparation, I reflected on the revivals I had attended as a child and even as a young adult. I began to think about how I could recapture this framework with the youth I would be privileged to speak to. In my thoughts and reflections, I decided not to go the traditional route and start the revival with a three point sermon and well-constructed illustration.

Instead of taking 20 minutes to tell these brilliant young minds what they should be doing, and how they should be doing it, I invited them to be active participants in the sermonic moment. For roughly 45 minutes the congregation and I opened ourselves to hear and attempt to answer the plethora of questions that these young people had. From what is rubber made of, to why is it important for kids to go to church, to how to find balance between older members and younger members…. we explored the thoughts, questions and ideas that these children and youth had. This revival helped me to apply and incorporate what I have learned this last year.

FTE has afforded me the opportunity to reflect, rethink, and re-imagine what ministry looks like for me as a young African-American woman. This past year has helped me to better understand what I hope to accomplish as a preacher, and to be open to venture into the unknown. Although the road may be less traveled, I am convinced that I can find my way. Even if that means making my own way.


1. To learn more about FTE’s Ministry Exploration and Mentoring grant or to apply click here.

Tags: Inspired Leaders, Innovation in Ministry, Thinking Out Loud, Shaping the Future


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