Recently, Kyndall Rae Rothaus shared a story on Instagram TV about pronouns for God. As I listened, she shared about a time when someone read scripture in a worship service and used the gender-inclusive pronoun Ze/Zer for God in the New Testament reading.
I wrote a comment to her post. And I said, “Hey! That was me!” It was the 2016 Alliance of Baptists gathering in St. Louis, Missouri. That memory of changing to gender-neutral pronouns for God prompts me to say, I will be offering a workshop at the Alliance gathering in a few weeks. I will specifically be addressing, “Trauma Informed Pastoral and Spiritual Care.” And that story reminds me to share with you that Kyndall has a new podcast on a very similar topic… Read her interview below to learn more!
And these connections (so many!) remind me to say: trauma is one of the pressing issues we face in ministry. When a person comes to their minister or chaplain and tells them about personal trauma, the stakes are high. If that minister is you, I know you want to get your response right. You want to do and say the right thing because it matters. It matters so much that pastor and author Ruth Everhart and I are offering a workshop this month. And — good news — we are extending the early bird registration on the #MeToReckoning Workshop. You can can still get the best price until Friday of this week. Students, we’ve got you! Just $24 for four weekly workshops and the price includes Ruth’s book.
Circling back around to when I met Kyndall… That day when I read scripture and changed the pronouns for God to Ze, Kyndall was the preacher in the morning worship service. After the service she and I, along with some mutual friends, went out to lunch. That was the start of our friendship. Here we are five years later, and we both have books coming out next month with Fortress & Broadleaf. Full circle!
The Stakes of Ministry
When trauma strikes someone in our care, not only can upend their life, it can be unsettling for us, too. In the early years of learning the practice of ministry, I got a call for the pastor to come because someone in our congregation, a young father, died suddenly and unexpectedly. I got busy, but I failed to understand the call was for me.
Have you had a moment like that? When a call came, and the stakes were high, but you missed it? How did you recover? Watch today’s video to see what happened for me.
We have new closed captioning [CC] on our videos. Check out this week’s topic and read as well as watch the video!
Learning in Practice with Kyndall Rae Rothaus
Kyndall is the author of Thy Queendom Come: Breaking Free from Patriarchy to Save Your Soul and Preacher Breath. She is a preacher, poet, feminist theologian, soul companion, and the co-founder of Nevertheless She Preached, a national, ecumenical preaching conference designed to elevate the voices of those on the margins. After eight years working as a Baptist pastor, Kyndall left institutional church work to found her own practice as a spiritual director where she offers services primarily for clergy, LGBTQ persons, and folx wounded by religion. You can learn more about her at her website, or you can follow her on Instagram @KyndallRaeRothaus. Here is our three-minute interview with Kyndall!
What questions do you live by?
KRR: When I’m not sure about something: What does my inner knowing have to say about that? Which course of action has the most energy?
When I’m feeling stuck: Is there another way I just haven’t dreamed up yet? How can I get my imagination reactivated?
Any time: How do I feel in my body? I’ve spent a lot of my life rather disembodied, so this question often feels like the key to unlocking everything.
What questions do you wrestle with in your practice of ministry?
KRR: The question that haunts me is and drives me nuts: Am I doing this right? Like, I want to score an A++, but I can’t figure out who gives out the report cards and where I can get mine in writing. It’s maddening.
The question that is actually more helpful for me: What does integrity look like for me in this situation? And: What is Spirit prompting/nudging/calling me to do?
This week’s episode is about the stakes of ministry. How did you learn to see and respond to the high stakes of pastoral ministry?
KRR: One of the ways I learned about the high stakes of pastoral ministry was recognizing the toll a toxic work setting was having on my body. As a result I’ve decided to start listening to my body before I listen to the demands of other people.
How has your practice of ministry changed over time?
KRR: In a concrete way, my ministry has changed from pastoral work in a congregational setting to spiritual direction with people one-on-one as well a sort of pastoral entrepreneurship in the public square that I am still figuring out. I’m no longer connected to an institution of any kind, which is scarier in terms of salary, but freer in terms of imagination.
My ministry has changed in other ways too, not just in form. I have, over the years, become bolder and stronger. I’m not nearly as timid as I used to be or nearly as concerned with people pleasing. Speaking of the “high stakes” of ministry, one of the high stakes is that you will not be able to keep everyone happy and you will disappoint people. It’s inevitable, because as a minister people have a whole host of conflicting expectations about who you should be and how you should operate. It is impossible to meet them all! For me, disappointing people has always been painful, but as time passes, I have learned to weather those feelings and to accept that someone else’s disappointment is not, in fact, commentary on my worth or the quality of my work.
I am also very slowly learning how to listen to my own needs. My tendency—and I think this is a true for a lot of ministers—is to give and give past the point of depletion. I am learning to pay more attention to the pace my body needs, to the pace my spirit needs, and I’m learning to stop judging myself for not having someone else’s speedier pace.
It's been a hard year of disappointment. But that is NOT the end of the story! The stakes of ministry are too high to get trapped in the disappointments of others. Thank you @KyndallRothaus for this insight! pic.twitter.com/HnzojqUpV4
— Three Minute Ministry Mentor (@3MinuteMin) April 5, 2021
Tell us how you came to write your latest book Thy Queendom Come.
KRR: Thy Queendom Come feels like the culmination of a decade of feminist wrestling with Scripture and with Christianity. When I’ve mined the tradition for gold, this is what surfaced for me. It’s what I came up with when I dove deep.
Personally I only enjoy the Bible when I am imagining the stories in a way I’ve never ever heard them, when I find an original angle, or when I bring my rawest, most probing questions and objections to the text and refuse to accept an easy answer. Thy Queendom Come is, I think, what happens when I bring my best interpretive skills to the task of reading Scripture and reading the human spiritual condition. It is an unapologetically feminist exploration of the reign of God, a book that is decidedly devoted to Mary and the Divine Feminine.
What new project are you working on right now?
KRR: I’ve started a podcast! Together with my colleagues Kyndra Frazier and Gillian Drader, I am hosting a brand new podcast on spirituality and trauma, which I believe is such an important topic and one that most ministers do not receive nearly enough training about! The podcast is titled Discovering Wholeness: Healing Trauma, Unearthing Self and the very first episodes drop TOMORROW (Tuesday, April 6). Please go follow us on Instagram and Facebook!
What is on your must-read list right now?
KRR: Oh gosh, I always find these types of questions so hard to answer! I think I’m going to respond by saying which books had the biggest influence on me in the past year.
For nonfiction, I would say Belonging: Remembering Ourselves Home by Toko-pa Turner was one of those books I read at exactly the time I needed to read it.
I also really appreciated the novel, The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett and the Earthsea Series by Ursula K. Le Guin.
The stakes of ministry are indeed high. And pastoral imagination is that which allows one to push past feeling stuck or unsure about what to do. To learn more about how pastoral imagination is crucial to your practice of ministry, and to get all the news about Eileen Campbell-Reed’s new book Pastoral Imagination: Bringing the Practice of Ministry to Life, we hope you will subscribe to 3MMM today.
We are working on a special opportunity for you to order both Pastoral Imagination and its companion journal. Announcement coming soon!