This year marks my 17th year at Sligo Church. I’ve moved from being only a member, to youth leader, to Pastor. As a teenager who felt called to ministry and a young adult who needed to practice ministry, Sligo Church gave me the support, encouragement, guidance, and sometimes even the financial resources I needed to realize my call. Through the prayers of members, by them lending a helping hand, by believing in me or by giving me room to grow and learn, Sligo Church became my village.
While at Seminary, I met my future husband, Kelan Fielder. We were both studying to be Pastors, and already sponsored by different Conferences. During our courtship, as we contemplated marriage, people often asked us, “How are two Pastors, in different churches and conferences, going to be married and raise a family?” We didn’t have an answer for them, except to say that if God was calling us to be together, He would figure out the rest for us.
We got married while still at Seminary and were soon approaching the end of our time there. I received a call from Potomac Conference telling me that they would be assigning me back to Sligo Church as a Pastor. Sligo was my home church, the community that raised me in ministry, and the place I loved. However, since I had already been there as a student worker for 5 years, and due to the fact that Sligo isn’t a typical church, I felt it would be good for me to stretch myself beyond that to which I was already accustomed. I asked if there was a possibility to be placed in a small church in the country somewhere. At that time Sligo was the only opening for me and I was of course still happy to be coming back home.
Little did I know, just how much I would need to be back in my village. Not only was Sligo Church understanding and supportive of our two-pastor household, after 13 years of being connected to the youth and young adult ministry, Sligo also gave me the opportunity to grow in a new role as Pastor for Discipleship and Congregational Care. I was grateful but there was more to come.
The question we were asked at Seminary, ‘‘How are two Pastors in different churches and conferences going to be married and raise a family,” became all too real when we had our son, Azzan. My answer now is, “With a village!” It is a cliche idea but one that rings so true for my family. The village that molded me as a teenager, gave me opportunity as a young adult, is the same village that now enables me to be a mother and a pastor. I teared up as I wrote that last line because without my Sligo village, my life would look very different.
When Azzan was 10 months old Kelan, who is rarely able to be at Sligo, and I had our first opportunity to take him to Sabbath School together. However, after a few minutes Kelan had to prepare for a baptism and I had to prepare to worship lead. We asked a gracious member, on whom I’ve had to call several times, to watch Azzan for the rest of Sabbath School and the beginning of service ‘til Kelan was done with the baptism.
While my mom is able to occasionally have Azzan during church, she is often greeting or otherwise unavailable. On one such instance I wasn’t sure what to do; I was scheduled to host Sligo Live and man tables in the Atrium after. A member walked in to give me an announcement, and I asked her if she could watch Azzan while I attended to my responsibilities. She ended up with him for over an hour until I was able to find another member to switch with her.
You, yourself, may be the member who, has watched Azzan while I was worship leading, or hosting Sligo Live, or running trainings and meetings after church, or attending to the various other responsibilities on Sabbath. Even during the week, my Sligo village is essential to my family and ministry. You may be the member who watches Azzan while I’m at board meeting, or making a visit, or working at the office. In fact, as I write this article, another church member will be picking up Azzan in a couple hours so Kelan and I can attend to our ministries this evening.
My Sligo village isn’t a luxury or a nicety; it is essential to my life and ministry. My hope is that every member finds their village at Sligo Church. It is with this hope we wrote the “Promise of Community Curriculum;” it is with this hope we started Journey Groups. I hope, pray, and work so that you will find your village with whom you can do life. Try a Journey Group! Find your village!