Learning to listen to the quiet and unexpected voices
by VMC Staff
Although I have sensed a call to ministry since a young age, I have never felt qualified. I saw myself as too quiet, too slow to respond to crisis, too unsure of myself, and not authoritative enough in decision-making. How could God possibly use someone like me?
Last summer, I had the privilege of interning with the Eastern Carolina District of Virginia Mennonite Conference as part of my field training for Duke Divinity School. This internship gave me the opportunity to explore a calling into pastoral ministry by following the lead of four very humble and gifted pastors. In addition, because my husband and I only recently joined the Mennonite Church, this internship provided me the space to learn how Mennonites practice church leadership.
On the first day of the internship, two of the pastors sat me down for my first lesson: what it means to be a pastoral leader. They explained that a good leader is one who lays down his/her power. They recognized that power is given to anyone in a position of authority, but for these pastors, they did not see power as something to be grasped. They explained that in the midst of any congregational conflict, the pastor’s voice can sometimes be one that silences the dissenting voice and thus inhibits true consensus. As a result, the pastor often leads behind the scenes, laying down his/her voice in congregational meetings and important matters.
To hear these pastors speak of their roles in such a way sparked my imagination to dream of how God might use the unexpected people of this world. This set the tone for the summer, and as I practiced various pastoral roles like teaching, preaching, and pastoral visitation, I learned to listen to the quiet voices. I read the Bible with a woman I met during a worship service with Durham Mennonite Church at a nursing home. She and I sat and read the verses for the upcoming Sunday, and she helped me prepare for my sermons as she reminded me to listen to the unexpected voices in Scripture.
This summer, I was looking to find my voice. What I discovered in the search was the gift of listening. In the voices of the often overlooked people in our churches, our Scripture, and our society, we encounter the quiet voice of the Lord. This lesson was an incredible gift that I received from the Eastern Carolina District churches this summer. Thank you for sharing your voices with me.
Katie Johnson Misz is a student at Duke Divinity School who just finished her second year in the Masters of Divinity program with a concentration in Christian Education. She interned with Eastern Carolina District in the summer of 2012.