Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Seminary newspaper article: "Not the Internship I Signed Up For"

This was published in the Concord, the seminary student newspaper, in March 2013, in an issue titled "At the Cross (Roads)."


"Not the Internship I Signed Up For"

All my internship interviews had begun the same way:  "So, tell me about yourself."  By my fourth interview I walked into the room feeling solidly prepped on my mini-biography.  Then this five-foot-nothing mission start pastor leaned forward, her fingers pressed into a point, and asked, as her first question, "So.  What is the seed of hope that lies at the heart of Emmy?"

While I stammered through something resembling an answer, I thought, This woman is either crazy or brilliant.  Forty-five minutes later I knew the answer to that question, and I also knew where I wanted to be for internship.

I felt almost immediately comfortable under Deb Stehlin's supervision at Light of the World.  It's a mission start community in Apple Valley, just barely five years old when I started in September.  Light of the World is a congregation built around radical relationship: a true welcome for everyone who walks in the door and a commitment to get to know each other, warts and all.  We want to know people for who they are.  As I fretted over this article, someone gently reminded me:  "Let go of perfect.  We want you to be real."

Deb told me when I came on that she saw in me the opportunity to be a leader and a partner.  I learned leadership from a pastor who fully embodies her belief in the importance of God's grace for us and our love for each other. I saw how bringing people into relationship with each other transformed lives and spoke the Gospel into broken hearts.  And then in early December we learned that Deb had been called to serve as the Director of Evangelical Mission for the Minneapolis Area Synod.  Her last Sunday was January 6th, 2013.

Suddenly the "leader" aspect of Deb's vision for me took on a whole new meaning.  I couldn't shadow her as she met with local pastors and national mission leaders.  I couldn't turn to her with questions about worship or pastoral care or church history.  I didn't have someone sitting next to me on Sundays, squeezing my elbow to say she was pleased with my sermon, offering me the Peace of Christ with a smile as wide as her arms.

This is not the internship I signed up for.

We have an interim pastor in place as of February -- Hollie Holt-Woehl, who brings her knowledge as pastoral care professor and experience as interim pastor at three previous congregations.  It is likely that, since I am a concurrent intern, I will still be with Light of the World when they call their next pastor.

I've spent many nights in prayer and worry.  But the message I've received is clear:  I am going to learn a lot more, and a lot that I needed to learn, under three supervisors than under one.  And while this is a lesson I'd much rather learn from a book, the leadership role Deb saw in me has come to better fruition now that I have to stand more on my own two feet.  The changes and pains of transition force me to know better who I am and who I'm called to be.  Where do I feel comfortable?  Where do I feel stretched?  When do I trust my gut, when do I listen to my heart, and when do I rely on my head?  None of this would have been impossible to learn under one supervisor.  But under three, it can be easier to learn what's true to me.  Continual change forces me to know where my real self gravitates.

This is not the internship I signed up for.  It's harder, and I feel more vulnerable and make more mistakes.  But Deb didn't just leave behind a pastor-sized hole.  She built a community that believes in loving each other where we're at.  She organized a church that surrounds its people -- and its intern -- with a God-sized abundance of grace.

Maybe that's another lesson I can't learn from a book:  that the church isn't just about the pastor.  That when I signed up for partnership and weird questions, I also signed up for radical relationship and meaningful community.  That I signed up to learn what it was like to be a leader, and a partner -- not just to the pastor or staff but to the whole congregation.  And maybe I signed up to learn, not how to be perfect, but how to be real.

1 comment:

  1. So, what is the seed of hope that lies at the heart of Emmy? :) So glad you have learned that priceless lesson that the church isn't just about the pastor. Thank God. What a relief!