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

Women Clergy Need Girlfriends

By: Amanda Riley
July 18, 2011

After completing the 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. In my first few months in my new call I compiled a list of the young women clergy in my denomination in my area, there were about a dozen of us in our first call within a 2 hour drive of each other. At our first meeting we gathered for lunch at a one woman’s home, eight of us arrived. From there we began meeting monthly, while women came and went from our group over that first year, we ended up with a core group of four. Thanks to the Vocational Friendship Grant provided by Lilly we were able to fully fund our lunch meetings for the year, and we even had enough left over to take a retreat.

On our retreat at a cabin in Northern MI, we spent time in prayer, and study, we walked along Lake Michigan, and hiked on the sand dunes. One night following our evening worship, one of my colleagues said, “You know this group has been a life line for me. I don’t know if I would still be in ministry if it weren’t for the friendships we have formed and the collegial support I have from each of you.” As our conversation went on, one of our members suggested that our experiences were not just valuable to our group, but life lessons that could and should be shared. “Let’s write a book,” one member exclaimed; the others smiled and nodded in approval. I was the lone reluctant voice, “I don’t know, a book is a lot of work and we all lead busy and full lives; is this realistic?” After more conversation, and realizing that I was out voted, we covenanted to give it a try—to write a book from the perspective of young clergy women. A book by young clergy women for young clergy women.

Thanks to the Holy Spirit’s movement in a living room in Northern Michigan in the fall of 2008, and despite my uncertainty—our little group of four clergy women turned girlfriends has written a book. And thanks to the Alban Institute our book titled The Girlfriend’s Clergy Companion: Navigating Life in the Parish with Style and Grace is due out this August. While the title of this book includes the word “girlfriends” (as does the title of this article) and our initial goal of producing a work that is “by young clergy for young clergy” we believe that our stories provide guidance, and insight for clergy of all ages, and men and women alike.

Sitting around that living room in Northern Michigan that fall evening nearly three years ago, we thought of young women in ministry in the Biblical narrative, the first who came to mind was of course, Mary. We mused that Mary after having received and answered a call from God to perform a very difficult task—to become pregnant out of wedlock and to deliver and raise a son who would be the savior of her people—went to Elizabeth. Mary’s first move upon accepting the awesome responsibility of a call from God was to go to her cousin, another woman who too was fulfilling God’s will as an expectant mother, who would birth the prophet who would prepare the way for Mary’s son. Mary sought out a woman who was a little further along the journey than her, and from their time together she gained strength for her path. Mary needed strength, hope and wisdom from someone walking a similar road, why would we assume we have to do this alone? In writing this book and sharing our experiences, we offer to be your Elizabeths. Come and visit with us.

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