God’s Call– Sarah Henry

gods-call-Sarah-Henry

Sarah Henry
Associate pastor, Faith Evangelical Covenant Church, Wheaton, Illinois
Ordained: 2016

My Journey

I began the path to ordination in 2014, but after I forgot to fill out some of the paperwork, it was pushed to the following year. Then I discovered I was pregnant. If you want to understand an aspect of women in ministry, ask pregnant pastors about their experiences! The Covenant gladly pushed me to the next year (2017). But that changed back to 2016 when we lost our son after five months of pregnancy.

Last winter I sat in the ordination interview with the Board of Ordered Ministry only two weeks after being in the hospital. They began the interview saying, “We know this is a hard time for you. Usually we begin the interviews by having you tell us about your context. But we’d like to give you the option to just talk about how you’re doing.” It was the church being the church. I was so grateful for the space to mourn even in my own ordination interview.

When the board approved me, someone said, “We are so proud of you,” and I burst into tears. Ordination wasn’t about taking the next step, it was about joining the ranks of those committed to spending their lives loving and living with the people of God.

Challenges

When I was dating my husband, his youth pastor took him out for lunch. He asked Brad to reconsider dating me or to try and convince me that pursuing a life of ministry was wrong. The deep-seated belief that women are not supposed to do ministry because women are less than men has been embedded into our subconscious.

Yet when people ask me, “How do you respond to those who do not believe women should be pastors?” I tell them I simply do what I always do. I walk alongside them. I allow them the opportunity to re-humanize me and to see that God has always and will continue to work through his children. Whether we be old, young, prominent or marginalized. God will find a way to speak through us.

Joys

God used the stories of my life to move me forward, and before I knew it, this path was before me. After witnessing a youth pastor completely ignore students who were begging for his attention, I became determined to listen well. My parents, who showed love and compassion as a necessary part of the Christian life, showed me what difference unconditional love can mean for those struggling with faith and life. It was as if God was constantly whispering in my ear at each crossroad, “Pay attention.” I went into ministry to teach students that it is way more important to be genuine in front of God than perfect.

Oh, there have been so many rewards! When a student says, “Can we talk?” that’s a reward. When a kid shares their story in connection with a biblical story, that’s a reward. When anyone allows me to enter into their personal lives, whether painful or joyful, that is a reward. I recently went with a student to get his wisdom teeth out. Being invited into that space, to be with him when he was nervous, to keep his mom company in the waiting room was one of my greatest treasures. I thank God every day for the gift of intimate community and the opportunity to walk alongside his incredible children.

My parents really shaped my life. My dad used to drop me off at school and say, “Go M.A.D. (make a difference)!” My mom, to this day, cannot stand to see anyone in pain. They were constantly taking in those who were alone or suffering. They showed me how patient love transforms lives and introduced me to a God-centered life. I will continue to live the rest of my life trying to emulate their example.

So many others have influenced my journey. North Park professors Ginny Olson and Jim Dekker taught me that ministry is a responsibility and a privilege. Diana Shiflett mentored me and taught me how to heal, as well as the importance of self-care. My seminary professors taught me how to fall in love with the word of God.

My peers—women who are in the trenches and on the mountaintops of ministry—demonstrate what it looks like to do all that God has asked. Thank you Meghan Bruggeman, Helen Jang, Diana Lyons, Beth Piccard, Kelly Johnston, and Jen McDonald. You inspire me!

One of my greatest passions is creating space for diverse communities to genuinely live into the kingdom life we are called to. I hope to do a lot more learning and a lot more communing with brothers and sisters from all walks of life. I hope to see this next generation lead the way in helping us live into that kingdom mindset of justice, hope, forgiveness, healing, and peace.

Quirkiest item in my office

: At the current moment, I have a barbershop pole from a recent spaghetti dinner and a cartoon portrait of myself pregnant. Before I came to Faith Covenant, I was living in South Korea, teaching English at an elementary school. The students drew me a picture for Teacher’s Day and wrote notes on it. It’s cute—except for the creepy drawing of the baby in my stomach!

First live concert:

Hanson!

If I had a round-trip ticket to anywhere in the world, I would go:

Back to South Korea with my son. I really want to show him where he was born and eat some authentic Korean food together!

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