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The following is an article I just finished for my under grads alumni magazine. It might give you a sense of how I became a pastor, however, I'm still wondering about that myself.
I was in my pajamas. That is, I was in my pajamas at 11 am in my office. My office is in the church. I was on the phone with a school principal. Pastors don’t usually show up to work in their pajamas. I did that morning.
It began at 7 am. My three year old was happily eating eggs. The sweet legs of my 8 month old were tightly wrapped around my waist. He was watching intently as I packed his brother’s lunch for preschool one handed. My shirt was still damp from the morning feeding. My husband was already off to teach an 8 am class. The phone rang. I was sure it was him to say good morning to his boys. Instead it was Doug.
Sarah has tried again, he told me. He can’t do this anymore. Clinical depression. It’s the third time Sarah has tried to end her life, this time in their car backed into a pile of leaves.
My baby fusses on my hip. I continue to talk with Doug as I spoon cereal into his eager mouth. I continue to listen while helping my eldest into clothes. I console as I change a diaper, pack the day care bag and school bag and glance at my calendar.
We divide and conquer. I will call his kids’ schools. I will notify Sarah’s therapist. What else is there to say? It’s the third time. It’s become routine. I pray with him before we hang up the phone.
There is no time to get dressed. I load up my children in the ice cold car and head to drop offs and then to the office. At 11 I am still in my pajamas and on the phone. I’ve reached the principal.
11 am? I have to be at the hospital at 12:30. Anne is in the final stages of breast cancer. Today the doctors and her daughter are meeting. They’ve asked me to help convince Anne to go home with Hospice. It’s been a terribly long struggle. The family is worn out. I have enough time to run home and throw on clean clothes. But before I leave, I need to make sure I leave the scripture reference and sermon title. I leaf through my notes from the morning, scribbling something down for Sunday’s worship.
How did I get here?
Before I rush home to change, before I confront Anne with the reality that she is dying, before I pick up my children, before I scan facebook for the latest “info” on my church youth, before I search our fridge for something for dinner, before I return to the notes I scribbled for Sunday worship, before I throw in another load of laundry, before I sit down to a full in-box after my children are asleep, before I visit Sarah in the hospital’s lock down unit, I stop and wonder: how did this become my life?
After college graduation, I left the beautiful sloping hills of the Chenango Valley for the flat campus of Princeton Theological Seminary. There I received my master’s in Divinity. At 25 I was ordained and installed as the solo pastor of a church outside of Boston.
Yet, this still does not explain how a woman with “Rev.” before her name spends her morning on the phone in pajamas helping a family in crisis. Especially a woman who rarely went to church as a kid and was quick to tell anyone who would listen at age six that the Bible was hooey – just where did Cain and Abel’s wives come from anyway?
How did I get here? I wonder again.
I studied religion at Colgate simply because I was fascinated with the big questions posed by life. I also studied religion because I loved my professors. I didn’t study religion because I had some idea I wanted to be a pastor, at least not in the beginning. But then I started teaching Sunday school at Park United Methodist Church on the Hamilton Green. I missed kids and yearned for community with people outside of college. This led me to Park where I offered to teach Sunday school. The next thing I knew, a community had entrusted me with their 11-16 year olds every Sunday morning. I feel in love with them.
My senior year I knew without a doubt I was headed to graduate school. What else would I do with myself? Yet I had no idea that what I would pursue would be a vocation, not an education. I remember distinctly watching my pastor at Park one Sunday, and thinking: I can do that. Gradually over the next few months the “I can do that” became, I want to do that.
7 pm. I zip my robe, hiding my shirt dirtied by small sticky hands. The music is already playing. Briefly, I look over those who are gathered for a midweek Lenten service. I lead worship, reading the scripture passage, reciting the prayers, but I am not there. I am thinking of Anne, of Sarah, of my sleeping children. I end the service with communion, the words spilling from my mouth without thought. Come to this table not because you should, but because you may. Come to this table because you are welcome.
That’s how I got here. I was invited. And I answered.
Rev. Abigail A Henrich (ehm!) is an ordained minister who earned her stripes at Princeton Theological Seminary and Colgate University. That said, Abby is really a mother-pastor-spouse who lives in a kinetic state of chaos as she moves from her many vocations: folding laundry, preaching, returning phone calls, sorting lunch boxes, answering e-mails, and occasionally thinking deep thoughts in the shower. Unabashedly she is a progressive Christian who believes some shaking up has got to happen in the church.