I was thirteen years old…all bony knees, bad glasses and scathing self-consciousness. One ordinary Sunday morning at the First Presbyterian Church in my Minnesota hometown, I witnessed something earth-shaking, life-changing: a woman stepped into the pulpit. A woman! Just as if she belonged there. Confident, calm and clear-eyed, she stood up and spoke to the congregation with authority.
Laura was our new intern pastor and I was utterly smitten.
During her short time at our church, Laura led a number of events with the youth, including a canoe camping weekend on the St. Croix River near my town. I remember that trip vividly, especially my aching need to be noticed by Laura tugging against the wish to completely disappear. I also remember her gracious patience with my teenage goofiness.
I decided around that time that I wanted to be – like her – a Presbyterian minister. That ambition didn’t last very long. My life took me in other directions and I never attended seminary.
Despite my lack of official training I find that I am doing a kind of ministry – increasingly so. Just in the past weeks, I have been invited to:
- offer song as part of a healing story presentation by my friend, Michael Bischoff, who is living well with terminal brain cancer. (You can watch his wise and heartfelt talk here….)
- create a ritual and lead singing for another friend’s upcoming 70thbirthday. Ditto for a friend turning 65 this summer.
- co-create and lead a ritual for friends celebrating 50 years of marriage.
- co-lead several “singing through grief” rituals in Minnesota and Iowa.
- lead singing to open a conference for people bringing the human aspect of healing into healthcare.
- sing for the residents of an elder care/memory care center with other members of the Morning Star Singers comfort choir.
- offer a session on community singing at a retreat for health care professionals.
Over the past decade, I’ve been involved in leading and/or planning many memorial services for people ranging in age from birth to 93. Many of these were unique undertakings and included things like puppet shows, storytelling, harp music, poetry reading and wild dancing.
I have helped create many wedding ceremonies as well. Two of my wedding songs have been sung at numerous nuptials, sometimes led by me and sometimes by others.
I’ve helped make ceremonies for healing, entering hospice, blessing a child, preparing for dying and sanctifying a new home. It is a profound honor to be entrusted with these sacred moments in the life of my community.
Wherever you are, Pastor Laura, I bless and thank you for showing my thirteen-year-old self that a woman can be an inspiring spiritual leader.