I love The Young Clergy Women Project for the many gifts it gave me. I can’t even list all of the things that it gave me. (I just tried and deleted. Words don’t express what this project has given me over the years.) There is, however, one thing that rises to the top: a group of friends. It started at the very first conference where I made haphazard plans to go to Scotland with two women that I had just met. And then the trip actually happened the next summer. A year or two later, we were at another TYCWP conference and opted for a fancy dinner on our free night. We took along two other women. It was there at that dinner table that something solidified. We became a group. We even gave ourselves a name. We went on what retreat together and one vacation — and it was awesome. We wanted more time together.
Earlier this year, this group of women decided that we would apply for the College of Pastoral Leaders at Austin Theological Seminary
. Because we wanted to learn some things but really because we wanted more time together. That’s the gift of this program. Through a series of grants, they provide opportunities for groups of religious leaders to create supportive community. Holy cow, do I need that! But it seems too good to be true so we didn’t really believe that we would get it. But, we did. We got the grant. They even listed us first on the website as The Circle
. (That, by the way, is not the name we call ourselves. It was apparently too racy for Texas which makes me cackle. And my cackle is really loud.)
Yesterday, we had our first meeting in which we set out to tackle the lofty goals outlined in our grant application. Eventually, we will be going on several retreats to visit with other young clergy women to learn about what makes our leadership so unique. That’s not for a few months though. Because our real focus is not about leadership but trying to give voice to our deepest longings. It’s a question we were asked over and over again in seminary and throughout the ordination process, but now, we serve local churches. Our time is committed to those we serve and it gets harder and harder to claim space for the very thing that called us into ministry. It sounds absurd. It seems ridiculous as I’m typing it out but when I opened the book that we covenanted to read together
to read this prompt:
When was the last time you felt it — your own longing, that is? Your longing for love, your longing for God, your longing to live your life as it is meant to be lived in God? When was the last time you felt a longing for healing and fundamental change groaning within you?
I realized I didn’t have an answer. I don’t have an answer. Present tense. And I’m so grateful for the nudge to think about this again. It is indeed a tremendous gift — these friends, this opportunity, this great question. It is a wonderful gift.