MAKING IT BETTER: A Minister By Any Other Name…..
Dear readers it’s been a short while since I was with you and I have missed you! I’m hoping the feeling was mutual. I have had a few weeks of stress and called into question my role or title as Minister. I know this sounds very dramatic but at the time it felt that way. So what could have caused this crisis of faith you might ask? I will tell you.
I became an Ordained Minister two years ago and my response to the call was a very private experience which at the time was unclear to me how it would develop. Prior to my going into the seminary I had worked in the caring profession as a Therapist/Counsellor and as a writer over a couple of decades. Most of the work I did seemed to centre on women’s issues. Particularly advocating on behalf of women who had been abused in one form or another, as well as providing psychological support to them. I was quite clear about my roles and I equally felt confident about what I had been put on earth to do. My writing also served as a comfort and resource for many who it spoke to and it encouraged.
After becoming a Minister I wondered what type of ministry I was going to be engaged in. I did not have a clue. It was all a big mystery to me, but I was confident that all would become clear to me if I was still and I allowed my deep intentions and my desire to serve humanity manifest itself. What I had not factored into this is the amount of resistance, criticism, rejection, abuse, antagonism, condemnation I would receive for making my own determination as to how I wanted my ministry to look and where I wanted to take it with the guidance of God who called me to the work.
While at first I wasn’t sure what type of Minister I would be, I was very clear what type I didn’t want to be. At the risk of casting aspersions on others I will refrain from naming anyone, but I think it is obvious from the money making venture religion has taken and the preying on vulnerable members of the congregation that some unscrupulous men and women of the cloth have become; that there is a lot to be desired of many in those roles.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago when I was on a retreat for newly ordained ministers, which is a gathering for ministers to share their experiences in their roles and how their lives may have been impacted and how they may also have impacted others lives. It was very moving, informative, supportive, and a very healthy exchange of view points and experiences for the newly ordained. Some of the Ministers had joined churches and had taken up the specific role of being Minister of a church. Others were not attached to a particular church but held services at different churches. Some had other professions alongside being a minister and some only performed specific services when asked, such as weddings, funerals, baby blessings and other such functions (i fall in the latter category)
I came away feeling more comfortable with my thinking of how I wanted to proceed. It became even clearer to me that all the work I had done to date was in line with and had been on course to bring me to the moment when I took my vows as a Minister. I had been ministering through all my previous work and in my writing. I had now come to a place and time where the format, the style of my ministry might change but my intentions and my heart remain the same.
Having arrived at this peaceful place and with self assurance with where I was going, you can imagine the shock I felt when I was invited to another gathering of Nigerian Pastors, Deacons and Ministers in the UK. I was excited to spend time and share with my own people, the same way I just done the same not so long ago with a mixed group of ministers who were predominantly Caucasian.
Well, to cut a long story short they attacked me in all manners possible for declaring I had no desire to be attached to any church now or in the foreseeable future. I tried to explain to them that there was more than one way to be a Minister..One size does not fit all. I explained to them that we are all ministering to one another everyday in our daily encounters and relationships with one another. Many people who don’t bear any religious titles conduct some of the most profound ministry just by how they respond to their fellow human beings in their authentic selves. In the same way many of those screaming about the religious might and know how have caused untold pain and wreak havoc on humankind.
I talked about how I visited synagogues, mosques, Temples to witness for myself how other faiths worshipped which was an eye opener for me and allowed me to feel more empathy and understanding towards people of other faiths. It did not diminish me in any way and I wasn’t about to become a Jew, a Muslim, a Buddhist or any other faith other than Christian as a result; although if I chose to, that was my prerogative. Needless to say, this did not go down well. I was immediately informed in no uncertain term that I had exposed myself to dark forces and my faith was not strong enough otherwise I would never have gone to these places. I was summarily informed that God could never support my actions and literarily shunned.
I came away feeling deflated, angry, exhausted and determined not to be aligned in any way with people so inflexible and unable to see past their own egos and unchristian ways. I also wondered how I could practice the type of Ministry I believed I was called to deliver in my own country if this is what I would be up against. So I went back to the seminary to find my ‘centre’, my core and see if I would get the answers I needed.
Guess what? …I’m back! Even clearer than I was before and ready to do the work I was called to do. Your comments on this website in general and more specifically in LOUD WHISPERS and MAKING IT BETTER i have been ministry in itself. You are very thoughtful, generous, and encouraging with your words and views. We hope we continue to provide you with what you need and that you find what you love here and love what you find.
Love, Peace and Blessings to you all
Gloria Ogunbadejo writes a weekly column for Punch Newspaper. She is a Psychotherapist, a life coach, a holistic counsellor and an ordained Minister
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