Pastor Simpson's Faith Journey and Call to Ministry
I was raised in a Christian family and can never remember a time when we did not attend church regularly. I was christened and confirmed in the Reformed Church tradition, and I remember that my confirmation was a particularly meaningful event in my teen years. Preparation for confirmation was extensive, and grounded me well in basic Christian beliefs.
In 1976, after my husband finished his PhD. and took a teaching job in upstate NY, I was wondering what to do with the next phase of my life. I had training in French and Early Childhood Education and had been teaching in early elementary or nursery school settings. In a new place, I was looking for a new idea. Over Christmas break that year, we returned home to visit family and stopped by to chat with the pastor who had married us. He suggested that I think about getting a degree in Christian Education, a suggestion which I don’t really recall taking very seriously. The very next week, however, back in upstate NY, I read the help wanted ads and found one that read: “Needed, that special someone to rebuild and revitalize educational ministries of downtown protestant church.” I literally could not put that paper down, and said to my husband that night, “I think someone is trying to tell me something.” I applied for the job, was hired, and began eight incredible years working in an American Baptist Church with a wonderful pastor for a mentor and friend.
I sometimes joke that I became an American Baptist by answering a help wanted ad, but that is in fact the case. (My Baptist History and Polity course in seminary further convinced me that the American Baptist family is a family which I am proud to claim as my own..) That church opened the door for us to worship together as a family and I identify that experience as my first clear sense of “call.” The pastor with whom I worked for seven years, recognized in me certain gifts which he helped me develop without ever pushing me to actually consider ordained ministry. It was the year that he left, when an interim pastor was on board, that I began to sense a deeper call. I became increasingly involved in pastoral care and hospital visitation, and in Fall of 1984, attended the Conference on the Ministry at Colgate Rochester to explore what a call to ordained ministry might really mean. I came away from that weekend, and from singing the closing hymn, “Here I Am, Lord” utterly convinced that I needed to pursue this new call.
From that point, however, the path was complicated, as we were already committed to spending two years, from 1985-1987, in Strasbourg, France. I pursued two graduate degrees in the teaching of French as a foreign language while in Strasbourg, and began teaching French upon our return. Three years later, I knew that my sense of call to ordained ministry could no longer be postponed, and I began three years of commuting to Rochester. During that entire time, God continued to open doors for me to gain wonderful experience in diverse ministry settings.
On the evening of the day I was ordained, my Mother, who had been unable to attend my ordination for health reasons, handed me a letter which she had received some thirty-two years earlier. It was from the directors of the camp I had attended and told her how proud she would have been of me if she could have heard me give the “sermon” at the camp vesper service that night. I had spoken about how camping in the out-of-doors brings us closer to God. I was thirteen at the time!
Time and again I have had my sense of call to an ordained pastoral ministry confirmed. I have sensed God working through me in pastoral counseling, in crisis ministry, in small group Bible Studies and in sermons where I always seek to make God’s Word relevant to the practice of Christian faith and to the living of a Christian life. I am delighted that God has given me the opportunity to follow the Great Commission to preach the gospel to all nations in this historic city of Strasbourg.