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Thinking Out Loud

We Are Pastors

by Michael Jinkins | Aug 22, 2017


Emily MillerEditor’s note: Today’s “Thinking Out Loud” blog post is guest-written by the Rev. Emily Miller. Emily is the Director of Recruitment and Admissions at Louisville Seminary. She is also a Louisville Seminary alum (MDiv ‘09) and a Minister of the Word and Sacrament for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). She previously served as Associate for Recruitment and Relationships for the Young Adult Volunteer program of the PC(USA)’s national office.

The conversation usually goes something like this:

Other person (OP): What do you do?
Me: I’m a pastor.
OP: Oh, what church?
Me: I’m actually the Director of Admissions at Louisville Seminary.
OP: Neat! But what church do you serve?
Me: Well, I GO to church, but I don’t serve one as their pastor. This is where I serve.
OP: Oh …
If I had a dollar for every time in the last four years that this conversation has happened, I'd be able to pay off my student loans a lot faster. These conversations don't bother me, as I thought they would when I started my work outside of the congregational walls. In fact, these conversations help me do something that I've hoped to make a part of my ministry and call since my ordination seven years ago: to redefine what a pastor looks like.
In my current role, I experience the breadth and depth of ministry in an educational context. I regularly have discernment conversations with prospective students who come from different places - denominationally, geographically, and/or in their discernment processes.

I hear everything from, "This is a dream and call I've had for so long, but only now is it possible," to, "I'm interested in therapy, but didn't realize I could become a therapist at a theological institution. What does that look like?"

I get to meet people who may know exactly what they want to do, but have no idea how it will translate into life after seminary - or, at the end of the day, if they can get paid to do the work their heart is set on.
When I began my studies at Louisville Seminary in 2006, I knew that I wanted to go into ministry, in whatever way became clear later, because at the time, I didn't have a plan. As time went on, I realized I wanted to be ordained, and within that, hoped to show that it could look like many different things. Becoming part of the Young Clergy Women International showed me that there are women all over the world who have been called by God to serve the church - inside and outside of traditional contextual walls.

We are seminary employees, chaplains to persons experiencing homelessness, executive directors of nonprofits, denominational staff, camp directors, faculty, and bi-vocational ministers working part-time in a congregation and part-time in retail. We are pastors. We are called by God to serve those who have been put in our paths, in this place, in this time, and to be ministered to as well.
Sometimes I look at my desk stacked with the lists of people I have to call, meetings I need to set up, or events I have to register for, and I remind myself that this, too, is a holy call. My friend, Sherry, reminded me recently that our students are not just our students: they will be our colleagues and perhaps our friends in the years to come. If walking alongside those who I will one day call a colleague doesn't help define what a pastor looks like, I'm not sure what will.

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