Facing our fears. It can be hard even to admit our fears, much less face them.
Fear of loss. Fear of disappointment. Fear of not getting what you want and fear of getting it.
Fear of walking down the street. Fear of making the wrong decision. Fear of staying in a relationship. Fear of leaving it.
Fear is a powerful motivator for action and inaction.
Fear can play a role in every aspect of the practice of ministry, in congregational life, in the work of chaplaincy, activism, college ministry, preaching, leading change, etc. Why? Because fear is human and humans are the heart of every ministry.
Unfortunately, many people globally, including in the United States, including your neighbors and closest friends, live in a constant state of fear. This is a painful and debilitating way to live.
Like anger, fear is a part of our emotional and psychological warning systems for good reasons. It should only be ignored and avoided at our peril. On a daily basis, fear helps keep us alive. But if someone lives in a constant state of threats, trauma, abuse, then their system of fear can function much less effectively.
One of fear’s purposes is to give us information about changes we need to make in our immediate and long-term situations. Naming the fear is a significant part of calming oneself enough to take the appropriate action, what Dan Siegel calls “name it to tame it.”
Because fear is part of a warning system to help us change course, it has a lot to teach us, and it can help us reframe the stories of our lives. Yet when someone lives in a constant state of fear, they will have more difficulty in discerning immediate threats.
We are also impacted by systems of fear and anxiety in which we live. Those of us with adequate amounts of food, shelter, social capital, relationships and privileges can still get stuck in systems of fear that are paralyzing.
The minister you will meet today found a way to face her fear about ordination. Cathy was formed in a Catholic tradition that did not recognize women as suitable to be called into the priesthood.
Yet when Cathy faces her feelings of fear about ordination and what it means to give her life in service, then her understanding of her world and her self change dramatically. There is tremendous power in facing ones fears rather than being captive to those feelings.
How are you facing your fears in ministry or in life?
My prayer is that you will know the love that casts out fear and that you can name and acknowledge your fears to that you can embrace your life and calling most fully.
This week’s resource is an article I published in late 2017. It tells more of Cathy’s story, and it appears in Ecclesial Practices. “Living Testaments: How Catholic and Baptist Women in Ministry Both Judge and Renew the Church.”
If you would like a copy of the article, you can write to Eileen and request one.
Speaking reframing fears and women’s ordination, we are proud this week to be sponsors of #neverthelessshepreached2019! And we send our congratulations to Rev. Amelia Fulbright who was one of our winners last week. She is attending #NSP2019.
Amelia is a campus minister in Austin, and she shared this with us in her essay “Why Nevertheless?”
“I’m excited to hear from a lineup of scholars and preachers whose identities are as diverse as the students I serve in Labyrinth Progressive Student Ministry. Our Labyrinth membership includes a high percentage of women and LGBTQ+ folx, and it’s essential that they have conversation partners in the faith who reflect back to them their beauty and power as women, queer, and non-binary people.”
Do you want to see what an inclusive campus ministry looks like? Head over and follow Labyrinth Progressive Student Ministry on facebook!
We are so delighted that Rev. Amelia will be able to attend #NSP2019 and renew her spirit. Watch here for posts about the program this week! Here are the things she is looking forward to at the conference:
“Some of the speakers are friends that I already follow through their books and on social media; others will be new to me … I trust that their wisdom, combined with the chance to commune with beloved colleagues, will renew my courage to speak truth to power and to live without fear into my calling as a woman in ministry.”
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*Cathy, a pseudonym, is a participant in the Learning Pastoral Imagination Project. This story is shared with her permission.