Leading in Troubled Times
Building Transformational Leadership. My understanding of this Mark is that ordained ministers are expected to be more than effective leaders; we are called to be transformational. I see it as a call to live into priestly, prophetic, representative, and servant roles (MOM, p. 9). Jesus said to Peter, “If you love me, feed my sheep” (Jn 21:17). Food is sustenance. It is life-giving. It provides nutrients that help people not just survive but develop and thrive. It implies nurturing and caring. Jesus said feed “my” sheep. Feeding the Church means showing, pointing, illuminating through proclamation and sacraments the presence and grace of God. The Good News of the incarnate revelation of Jesus the Christ is, indeed, the bread of life and cup of salvation that brings us new life. Embodying this to the Church and the world is no small responsibility. One must be transformed and transforming. This is the kind of leader I aspire to be as an ordained minister.
I see myself in this Mark more sharply defined now, as I realize that leading is one of my gifts. Until my discernment process, these gifts would have been located mostly in academic settings. Leading increasingly became part of my job; I had a philosophy of leadership, but it had not been spiritually formed. As I drew closer to God and Christ’s Church, I began to seek out lay leadership needs at PUCC. My love for the community was a strong reason I began the discernment process. Guided by the Holy Spirit, I want to bring my gifts to feed Jesus’s sheep.
I have selected the following artifacts to demonstrate my engagement with this Mark:
- Search committees for PUCC Pastor, PUCC Music Director/Pianist
- Vice Moderator and Moderator documents
- PUCC ONA Covenant Revisions
- Zoom Worship Service
Leadership. It has been in the front of my mind since 2015, when I supported and voted for whom I believed would be the first female President of the United States. Like half of the country, I underestimated the other candidate because he had been lacking in important leadership qualities that would have made him credible. I was numb with disbelief and dread because I could not imagine the kind of president he would be. Over the last four years, I have witnessed feckless leadership infiltrate congressional leaders, too, as they rallied behind a leader whose own family called him dangerous and traitorous. This regime was bolstered by the support of white, Evangelical Christians, 75% of whom voted for Donald Trump in 2020 (while making up roughly a quarter of US population). My own parents voted for him because progressive ideology, with its arc toward social justice, does not align with making America “great again.” I ran across an article in the Washington Post called, “When the world’s in crisis, we need ‘grief leaders.’ Here’s how to be one.” Spoiler alert: the steps are acknowledge grief and name it, be there, be vulnerable, and help find meaning. That’s what I felt when I was called to ministry during a time of turmoil—I am called to be a “grief leader,” but one who demonstrates the marks of a faithful and effective minister. This is the social and political climate in which I entered ministerial discernment—not in spite of it, but because of it.
I hold a leadership job. As chair of the Department of Educational Leadership, I am a leader of leaders—these are people who have been school principals. I see effective leadership modeled every day. Together we set our mission, vision, and goals. We have crafted a statement of our core values. We practice distributive leadership and consensus building. Through good hiring practices, I have put together the most racially diverse department on campus. I help faculty capitalize on their gifts for their success. I practice open communication and transparency. I advocate for my faculty within the college and university, and I make decisions with their best interests (and with their feedback) in mind. I am a good chair. When I see ineffective or incompetent—or worse, autocratic—leaders, I recognize it. What might it look like to bring my own leadership gifts and build transformational skills in the context of authorized ministry?
Good leaders empower by helping others live into their gifts. Transformative leaders demonstrate the characteristics, for example, of sagely wisdom, priestly listening, and prophetic discernment (Ossmer). We are servant leaders, and—not unlike the position of department chair—we answer to many people. Church leaders are interpretative guides along the journey. For me, each day shows me surprises of the Holy Spirit and has throughout the discernment journey. I have felt led, guided down roads I would not have had the courage or drive to pursue.
I have a leadership role in the Southeast Conference (SEC). I was on my way to a Member in Discernment retreat that was taking place just prior to the 2018 Annual Meeting. During a break, I was approached about conference service. I did not know the duties of the various open positions. “And there’s the Vice Moderator position that is open; that person usually plans the Annual Meeting,” I was told. “Ok, not in charge, and plans a meeting,” I thought. “I can do that.” That’s how I became Vice Moderator of the whole conference during a time of transition. The more I learned, the more I enjoyed and grew in Conference leadership. I did worry at first about being a good Moderator, especially in a year when we would be searching for a permanent conference minister. I’ve been on a dozen search committees in my career, but this role holds a sacredness and directly affects the Church. Early on as department chair, one of my faculty reminded me, “Whatever it is, you don’t have to do it alone.” When I am in doubt, I remember this statement. The devout people who serve with me on the board lift me up by their example, and the Transition CM, Rev. Char, models what a transformational spiritual leader looks like. Being on a discernment journey, I am in an in-between place of ordained minister and lay leader who has taken on the role of Moderator. I knew I would be speaking to it here as an example of how I would be a leader in the Church. For me, leadership is about connecting and healing, to help others find, truly, peace on earth and good will among one another.