Written by Jessica Ulrich. Media by Cord Buchanan.
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. God intricately designed all of Creation. In God’s very own image, humankind was created. God breathed into humankind which gave forth life. Even beyond the actions of imaginative creating, God invited humankind to be in communion and friendship and to be a part of the story that God had begun. The relationship they had with one another took some tumbles and turns because the humans rejected the Creator’s love and guidance. Yet, God was faithful to them still, called them by name, and carried them through the most difficult of times. Even through deep hurt, God’s love persisted so much that God humbled Himself to be with humans in the flesh. God as Christ Jesus came to Earth and through His life, death, and resurrection, He changed the whole world forever. Christ invited the outcasts to live and love and walk alongside Him, revealing truth, life, and salvation. Christ was and is restoring the world, reconciling Creation back to God. The people who lived alongside Jesus were radically challenged and realized the ever-abundant life and the new community that Christ makes possible. They were devastated when He died and soon after so full of joy and amazement when the Risen Christ appeared to them and gave them hope before ascending to God the Father. Christ died, Christ rose, and Christ promised His disciples that He will come again in glory. This is our hope for restoration and reconciliation! Oh, the Good News! Oh, to tell the whole world what God has done and will do! To continue this friendship, this restorative work, and to share this Good News, God as the Holy Spirit was given to humans at Pentecost. The Holy Spirit continues to inspire the hearts and minds of the church, ever-working to bring unity and friendship shaped by Christ. The Holy Spirit is constantly at work, inviting us into God’s redemptive story.
If God has invited His Creation to be a part of this story, this means we are all invited. You are invited. This also means that I, a 21st-century woman living in the middle-of-nowhere USA, am invited. Uniquely, God has called me by name from such a young age. As a young child, I remember setting up my older brother’s black metal music stand with my Sunday School book resting atop, sharing the Good News to my strategically placed stuffed animals and baby dolls. As I grew older, the Holy Spirit was inviting me to lead and share the Good News in all sorts of ways. I created and led the weekly children’s formation classes and led musical worship for years at my home church, both in junior high and high school. I found life and purpose in the church so much so that I also helped two other area churches with their ministries. I led Bible Studies, small groups, and was a sponsor for the youth group at a community church. The Holy Spirit offered me a teaching position at a church nearby which I prayerfully considered and responded to affirmatively. At the time, it was a difficult decision due to the opportunity conflicting with my senior year girls’ basketball season. Yet, God blessed me ever-more-so for listening to the Holy Spirit’s guidance in not playing basketball but instead building relationships in the churches. The Holy Spirit continued to invite me into more leadership within the church, partnering with God. Long story short, I recognized the voice of God calling to me during those moments, and especially during the summer before I began my first year at Greenville College. During this time I preached and ministered to the many young people and clergy I encountered. It was not even my second day on campus when I was invited to volunteer at a parachurch non-profit organization in Greenville. I began my first week of freshman year volunteering and building relationships with the students, and by October was hired at The Simple Room, the only freshman on staff at the time. Because of the Holy Spirit’s guidance and invitations, I have lived alongside the children of this community for four years, learning and growing. God has blessed me greatly, and has challenged and taught me more about Christ’s love and justice while living life in The Simple Room as a ministerial leader. I have been affirmed in so many ways, and the Holy Spirit kept guiding me into more and more leadership in the church as the years have gone on, giving me the ability to grow and teach in many forms here and away.
Discerning this ministerial calling continues, even as I am about to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in pastoral ministries. Discernment never ends. It is not exclusive to the individual, rather it takes a community shaped by the Gospel of Jesus Christ to discern the will of God. I am thankful for my pastor, teacher, mentor, and friend Dr. Benjamin Wayman for gifting the Church with a new edition of B.T. Roberts’ Ordaining Women (which I continually return to in times of doubt), for calling out and reminding me of the Spirit’s gifts within me, and for advocating for all women in ministry leadership. I am ever so thankful for my community in Greenville, especially my St. Paul’s FM Church family and the other female leaders alongside me, that have been attentive to the Holy Spirit who guides and gives wisdom, inspires hearts and minds, encourages, and critiques. Their imaginations have been shaped by the Gospel. Out of their deep love of Christ and love for me, they desire the will of God in my life and continually pray for and affirm me as I continue serving the Lord. I need you, friends. I thank you.