Confessions of a New-Start Pastor

I grew up in a house with a feminist pastor mom and a liberal dad who was an excellent theologian and practitioner of his faith. I spent years at the dinner table discussing theology with my folks and working side-by-side with them at soup kitchens and Habitat for Humanity builds. I attended churches with amazing Sunday school teachers, youth group leaders and lots of other adults who supported me and nourished my faith.  I served on conference committees, and as a youth and young adult, an equalization member to annual conference.  This upbringing means that I have been taught all my life that I have a call that is unique to me.  I was taught I have been awesomely made and have the gifts to answer whatever that call may be.  The churches I grew up in, the teachers I had in school, the church leaders I know have all, always, told me I am able to be who I was made to be.

I am lucky to have this amazing foundation, so it makes it all the more perplexing that in the years it took me to fully answer God’s call, and to be honest, still to this day, I repeatedly contemplate how much better it would be if I were a man.  Sitting in training for new-start pastors, the hipster guys with the cool glasses, flannel button downs and appropriately tousled hair seemed to just be more of what God needed than I was.  I have internalized the message that as a woman, I am less than who God made me to be. Until this blog, I have not named these feelings to anyone because it makes me angry with myself to even have them.  I know better, but that doesn’t stop me from feeling this way, so I’m caught in a spiral of fear and shame and feeling like I fall short on all counts.  

The only antidote I have found thus far to the cycle of self-doubt is to gird myself in the certainty of the mission I have been given.  Coming from the background of highly successful traditional church, I want the same amazing formation in God and community for others as I was able to have.  I know that lots of traditional churches are doing amazing work.  I also know that lots of people don’t connect with the traditional style of worship, so the messages of the church must be shared in other ways.  There can be lots of ways of being church, of this I am sure.  And this assurance leads me back to the knowledge that what we are doing here, planting this community in this way, is my work in this season.  A Gen X woman who has a high BMI, a weird name, and lots of reasons to be counted out is actually the one who God has brought here for such a time as this.  

I am sure that I will continue to struggle and to wrestle with my identity and call.  I’m beginning to learn that this is basically the point of life.  It really is good news that just when we figure things out, life changes and God calls us into something new and hard and beautiful.  I just need help remembering that sometimes.

Eilidh Lowery is a new-start pastor in Portland, Oregon.  She served in traditional settings for 9 years before planting the Sellwood Faith Community in July of 2013.  

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