Photo by Maryann Shaw

Photo by Maryann Shaw

Everyone’s faith journey is unique. Journeys of faith are what fill the pages of the Scriptures. These stories are what have helped shape me on my path with Christ. These stories have cultivated my desire to follow God with my life. For some, their journey is like Nicodemus: always questioning, wondering and doubting the truth of Jesus, but in the end finding every word Jesus spoke to be true. Others are more like Paul: having a run in with God on the road that completely changes the path in a new direction. Others still, are similar to Peter: called out of his boat and called into following Jesus around for three years and becoming the rock of the Church. Each story is so different and beautiful, and each story is wonderfully crafted to the individual.

My spiritual journey is similar to Timothy’s: having had a legacy of faith passed down through his family and then claiming his faith more and more as an adult. To most, I describe my family like the pastoral version of a “cop family”; in which your dad, your sister, your uncle, grandmother and half cousin are all cops. Similarly, my family is full of people in vocational ministry and education. I am thankful for the faith that has influenced my family to serve God. 

My mom is a strong woman whose faith was able to survive divorce, while she raised a daughter and ministered to a small church as the Director of Christian Education. She was able to show me that faith is more than a feeling - it is a daily decision to embrace and a responsibility to demonstrate one’s faith to the world. Now, as a teacher, she shows her faithfulness to God through ministering to the people that she encounters at school. My mother has never forgotten God’s faithfulness, even when it made her life more challenging.

A jack-of-all-trades, my father can do anything he reads about in a book. My father has shown me that reconciliation does happen and a restored relationship is possible as a result. After my parent’s divorce, my father and I were not on speaking terms. There was fighting, frustration, hurt, tears and pain, but by seeing value in each other we now enjoy a strong father-daughter bond. Over the course of nine years God brought us to a place of true connection, filled with love, openness and respect. My relationship with my father has shown me that reconciliation is what God truly desires for God’s people.

There are many other people who have blessed my life with guidance and direction on my spiritual path. This path has led me to aspire toward vocational ministry. Likewise, through this support network, I have experienced the importance of purposefully pursuing Christ-likeness and the need for a faithful community on my spiritual journey.

Like Timothy, faith has always been a part of my life. I have never doubted the existence of God or God’s presence in my life. I have, however, doubted God’s plan, my own worth, and what I am to do as a follower of Christ. I have often tried to put my plan before God’s plan and found myself frustrated and empty. Yet, when I surrender my will to God’s will, I find that not only do the desires I have get met, but God’s plan is so much more than I could ever imagine.

This idea of surrender has a lot to do with my desire to become a pastor. I had many ideas of how I would become a pastor. I believe that I can get myself anywhere. Yet, God had a different plan – for me to rely on God and not myself. If I had had my way, I would have gone to seminary right after college. Yet, if that had come to fruition I would have missed out on two very key areas of my growth; living on my own in Santa Cruz and serving as the Director of Youth Ministry at Sunnyvale Presbyterian Church. 

In Santa Cruz, I found myself working at The Bay School, a school for children with autism. My time at The Bay School taught me to trust that God knows the desires of my heart. Working in a classroom of students was not my dream. I wanted to work at a church, working in youth ministry. I was impatient. But if I had gone straight to working at a church right away, I would have missed out on an important lesson about working with people. My experience working in the autism community taught me about how behavior is connected to the core need - to be known.

It was difficult working with students that did not have speech or could only express themselves through limited language. I had to learn about and get to know each student before real transformation could begin. The students had to trust me before they were ready to learn from me. Once that understanding and trust were set true growth and transformation could emerge. My time at The Bay School, helped prepare me for ministry.

Next, I got the role as the Director of Youth Ministry at Sunnyvale Presbyterian Church. I was in charge of both Jr. and Sr. High ministries.  As you can imagine, my new understanding of behavior came in very handy. Over my five years at Sunnyvale Presbyterian Church I was grown, shaped, challenged, and transformed into a strong woman and leader. That church was more than a job - it became my family.

Sunnyvale Presbyterian Church taught me that I am capable. I have the talent and gifts for ministry AND I don't know everything. I could only grow that youth ministry so far and if I was going to continue in ministry I needed more guidance. I knew I had more learning and growth to experience in order to become the person and pastor I felt I could be.

I am thankful I was accepted into the Masters of Divinity program at The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology. The Seattle School’s emphasis on Text, Soul, and Culture is what drew me into their program. I would have never picked The Seattle School directly out of college, but God knew I needed to wait. God knew I needed time to develop and prepare for a place that requires you to investigate your personal narrative and how that narrative interplays with the narrative God has set in motion.

I am amazed at how God has walked me through the hard parts of my narrative and revealed to me the goodness that God has wanted for me. The Seattle School calls an individual to think differently than the world. Thankfully, I am not the same person I was when I started seminary. I am more confident in my self, in the Church and in God. Yes, I took Greek and Hebrew but more importantly I learned that God has a lot more for me to learn and grow into. I have become a life long learner and I could not be more thankful.

My time at The Seattle School led me to have an internship at Quest Church, an ethnically diverse church that is not afraid to call people to be disciples of Christ. This Evangelical Covenant Church was defiantly outside my experience growing up in the PCUSA. I learned how to courageously follow the Holy Spirit’s leadings and how to honor the different stories that people carry with them in church. The strong leadership at Quest has shown me that to be strong is to be humble and to be humble is to be bold in the truth of the Gospel. I am thankful for my time at Quest and how I will forever be changed by my time there.

What does all this have to do with my call? Everything. My story has shown me that I am built to be a pastor. I love seeing where God is and how I can help others see God as well. Creating space for people to engage with the Holy Spirit has become one of my favorite things. Yet, I also feel the weight of this call. There is a responsibility to not just to the people I will serve, but to God. I will bear the weight of being God’s representative for people. This is not a call to take lightly, but it is a call that I cannot ignore. I hold both the responsibility and the excitement of being a pastor.

Everyone’s faith journey is unique. Mine has led me to a place of wanting to help others on their spiritual journey. I know that God has given me all I need to step into the fullness of the pastoral role. I also know I will continue to learn and grow into what it means to be a pastor. I am thankful that I am not alone on this journey. I am thankful for The Presbyterian Church of the Roses for choosing to take me under care during the process of ordination through the PCUSA. I believe the Holy Spirit will guide me through this process I am a woman created by my God to be a pastor. I, Cassie Carroll, am a Pastor.