Ordination

I am now Reverend Glory Cumbow. It hardly seems real! After it was declared to me, “You are now officially an ordained minister of word and sacrament in the Presbyterian Church” I could not contain my joy. I had heard those words proclaimed to friends, and now it has happened to me! The ordination process is finally complete (of course, the installation is coming.)

It still seems surreal though. I wonder how long it’s going to take to feel like the title truly belongs to me (maybe after my first wedding?)

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While there were, of course, many people I wish could have been in attendance who were out of town, under the weather, or too far away, there were also many there to celebrate with me! I had numerous college friends who were local and some who had to drive a few hours who attended. It did my heart good to see the faces of so many of my friends, knowing that they are still there for me even though I don’t live close by anymore. It was wonderful to have church members there as they had seen me grow up from college to the minister I am now. I had great family support from immediate family to extended family who came into town for this event! And of course, my dear friend Betsy came to represent my CTS family. I also had many encouraging words from friends and family who could not attend, letting me know that they were rejoicing from afar. It’s hard to put into words just how amazing the feeling of support was for that day. I feel so loved! From the bottom of my heart, thank you to all who supported me on my ordination day.

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My husband sang beautifully during the service. Many who were there had never heard him sing before and they were impressed! As they should be 😉 He also placed my stole on me as the “symbol of ministry.” It was a special moment which was affirmed by the sniffles I heard coming from the congregation.

My voice made it! It cracked here and there, but all of my anxieties and fears didn’t stop the service from being beautiful.

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I’m also grateful for little joys along the way. I have seen a number of rainbows recently: walking on the beach a couple weeks ago there was a double rainbow, on Saturday night Andy and I followed a rainbow all the way home from his birthday dinner, and then Betsy sent me a picture of a double rainbow she captured on my ordination day. Also, two nights before graduation back in May, I had a dream about my Papaw. I have rarely dreamed about him in the 5 years since he has passed, but this dream was very clear. He stood in a doorway looking at me. I yelled, “Hi Papaw!” And he gave me an enormous, white, sparkling smile. That was it. Simple, but beautiful and meaningful.

I’m not claiming that these are “signs” or anything. I know some people have strong beliefs about those types of things, but I’m not sure what I believe about that. It’s just nice to find some peace and beauty surrounding me whenever I have anxiety or self-doubt.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you all. This Rev will do her best to make you all proud.

Transitions and Expectations

This blog post may end up being fairly disjointed, so apologies in advance. I just have some weird thoughts that I want to write down.

“Liminal space” is a term used commonly in seminary as we learn about pastoral care. In fact, it’s one we use ad nauseam, but when you find yourself in transition you’re grateful to have a term to give the weird place you’re in a name. Liminal space is known as a threshold, a beginning, a transition, a period of waiting for something to start, and all the complicated feelings that come with it.

You would think I would have dealt with my “liminal space” when I had just graduated and was preparing to move. And in some ways that is true. I felt proud, excited, and accomplished to finally have graduated from seminary. I was nervous and filled with some dread about packing and moving. I was sad to be leaving CTS and my community there. And I felt odd, loose, free floating when I no longer belonged to the CTS community, but hadn’t yet established my new community in my new church.

So here is where I find my emotions to be complex and difficult to articulate. I had a lot of my expectations of this new stage undermined. I didn’t expect to have everything go smoothly or to have my ministry all figured out in a month (HAHAHA no.) But I thought I would be out of the weird space by now. I thought I would be in a new weird space of being in a new place, and that I would have moved on from the transitional feeling by now. So let me try to explain:

My identity was stolen right before I moved. A credit card was opened in my name and someone was making expensive purchases. Apparently I caught it quickly, but it was frustrating especially since I was literally putting boxes into cars to be moved from one state to another.

Then mine and Andy’s furniture came early, which sounds like it would have been a good thing. But the driver arrived at 8pm with our furniture,and he couldn’t find any workers to hire who were willing to come in that late at night. So he unloaded the truck ALL BY HIMSELF. We helped unpack and set everything up, which we shouldn’t have had to do since we were paying for full service moving. But it wasn’t this guy’s fault! I felt so bad for him, and we were glad to help this guy, but we were justifiably aggravated at the company.

We were promised to have our internet and cable set up the day after we moved in. We didn’t get them until a week later.

Our cat, Blinky, had been sick for a few months. He kept sticking his tongue out and drooling. He had a mouth infection that apparently came from home cleaning products. We had always been careful not to get anything in his food and water, but breathing in the chemicals was enough to poison him and rot some of his teeth. Andy took him to the vet and he had 7 teeth removed. He is doing so much better now, but it sucks knowing you made your cat sick just by using every day products.

It’s been a bumpy road and we’ve done well handling it, but you just don’t expect all of these curve balls being thrown your way.

Now Andy and I are home in Tennessee, and being home feels weird. Usually I am thrilled and at peace to be here. But I feel troubled, unsettled. Maybe it’s because we’ve left Florida so soon after moving there; we’re clearly still settling in. It feels like we’ve left something important undone. Also, things are changing. We’ve got parents with some health struggles, and a grandparent on the verge of losing her independence. I expected to be happy here in Tennessee, but I feel like I shouldn’t be here.

I currently have either laryngitis or allergies; I have been hoarse for 3 days. I have no idea what’s going on, and I am getting ordained tomorrow. I am genuinely worried. I have waited for this day and worked so hard to get here. I spent hours planning the service. I have literally dreamed about my ordination day. Whenever I had a difficult time in seminary and felt like giving up, I would think about the hymns I would want to sing on my ordination day or picture the laying-on-of-hands. But now I am afraid that I won’t be able to speak tomorrow. I’ve had such great expectations for this day, and on the eve of such an important day I’m filled with anxiety and dread.

I guess I just expected to have gotten some form of “settled” by now and that I would no longer be in the liminal space. But here I am, still kind of floating and trying to piece things together. I’m navigating all of the undermined expectations, and hoping things work out (while taking Sudafed and drinking TheraFlu.)

There’s no neat “wrap up” to this blog, because, well, I’m still making sense of it all. I’ll let you know when I’m feeling grounded again.

Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to the skillful; but time and chance happen to them all. -Ecclesiastes 9:11

2 weeks in

We’re here in Florida, and so far we are loving being here.

We’ve settled into our little house right by the church. It’s smaller than our apartment, but everything fits! And it’s been fixed up. We’ve settled in pretty quickly and made it our own. There are still a couple boxes here and there that need to be unpacked, but we are a functioning household. We have a garage that Blinky LOVES. And I have this little sun room (It used to be a front porch, but now it’s walled in with windows) and I have claimed it as my reading nook. We have a cute front yard, a decent fenced-in backyard that we might fill with a dog soon! Praise the Lord, we have a washer and dryer! We can walk to a few different local restaurants to get brunch, seafood, and pizza. We can also walk to the beach in under 5 minutes which is the biggest perk. We’ve been taking long walks at sunset about 4 times a week. It’s a great way to find some peace, get some exercise, and unwind.

Of course, we live right by the church so the commute is nonexistent.

Peace is a good word for what Andy and I have found here. We feel good about living on the coast and about the church. We feel good about being away from Atlanta. We’ve realized how much living there sucked the life out of us. We have friendly neighbors who have welcomed us, one even brought over a gorgeous handmade cake! One of the congregation members dropped some plants outside our home to brighten up the place. And two Sundays in a row I have gotten flowers dedicated to worship in my name.

Now don’t be fooled: I don’t want to paint a perfect picture. We had some struggles when we first got here. Our furniture got here early, which at first seemed like a good thing. But the driver couldn’t find any workers to hire to help him unload so it was literally ONE PERSON unloading and putting our furniture together. We helped him put things together, because it was impossible to watch him do it all alone. It was frustrating that we hired full service movers and then we had to help do the work. Of course, it wasn’t the driver’s fault! But we were frustrated with the company.

Our internet and cable took a week to get set up. I won’t even go into how angry we got with the terrible customer service.

And of course, there are the normal things young women must face as a leader and minister. I’m having to establish my individual style and identity as a minister while fighting against being compared to the previous minister, and being called the previous minister’s name. But I am smart, capable, and articulate. I can face these challenges head-on.

It’s early on, but we’re happy and peaceful. Ordination is coming soon, a day I have looked forward to for a long time. But first, VBS is coming…

Moving

How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help? Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. – 1 John 3:17-18

hate moving.

Packing. Lifting. Bubble wrapping. Stacking. Unpacking.

Putting an angry cat in a carrier and having him cry the whole time in the car.

(We tried the sedative thing last time and he fought it the whole time. It only made him angrier and louder.)

Fortunately we are getting reimbursed for hiring full service movers, so putting everything on a truck and then getting it off the truck will not be our responsibility!

We aren’t moving for another week, but the packing has begun.

I rue my love of books when it comes time to box them up.

As much as I hate packing and moving, It’s nice to relive old memories. My mom boxed up my old yearbooks, trophies, and plaques from school. I looked through them and remembered my accomplishments, saw pictures of myself through the years, and read messages written by old friends. I couldn’t help but laugh at my second grade yearbook. At the front it asks about all the “favorites”: favorite TV show, song, sports, etc. I filled them all in, and when it got to “favorite star” I wrote “Dolly” (as in Dolly Parton.) I am a Tennessee girl through and through! Like most Tennesseans I love Dolly, even though I am not a country music fan. I grew up going to Dollywood fairly regularly, so she is very much a part of my childhood.

It is also cathartic to go through my items and get rid of things I no longer need. I am giving away items Andy and I no longer use, donating clothes and furniture, throwing away expired items, and cutting down the clutter. Not only does it feel good to lighten our load, but it also feels good to give away items that may be of use to someone else, especially someone in need.

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Andy and I have all of these little piles of change lying around the house. We keep saying that we need to do something with our change, but then never rolling the coins and taking them to the bank. One time I found myself sweeping and found a dime. I was tempted to sweep it up and throw it away, and then it hit me: what a privilege to be able to consider throwing away a piece of money. I also know how guilty I am of not having cash on me. Growing up, I didn’t live in area where there were many people on the streets asking for money. It was a shock to see so many in need here in the Atlanta area, and I have regularly had to turn down someone because I mostly use my card and don’t carry cash. So I bagged up all of our change in small plastic baggies and I plan on keeping one or two on hand to give to whoever needs it. It’s by no means a super-cure-all for those in need, but I realized that this money could really be given to someone who could use it instead of me seeing them as coins that clutter my home.

I hope that all the items we are donating and giving away are helpful to others. While cleaning out clutter isn’t a profound theological endeavor, it is eye-opening to see what a privilege it is to have all of this “stuff”, possessions that sit, go unused, and take up space. I hope to take these moments to address my privilege and find a way to use it to give to others, even if it’s just some change, some gently worn clothes, and a couple cheap pieces of furniture.

Graduation

Seminary is by far the hardest thing I’ve done so far in my life. I remember getting to the end of my first year, looking at other seminaries and even other master’s programs to seek other career options, trying not to freak out over the fact that I still had 3 whole years left. I thought graduation day would never come.33027122_10216841036200720_246261471858655232_n

Some people come to seminary for only 1-2 years. Many come for 3 years for the MDiv program. I chose Dual Degree, which combined the 2 year MAPT program with the 3 year MDiv program, for a total of 4 years at CTS. It was daunting to think that I would be here so much longer than many of my peers.

After the halfway mark of finishing two years, I finally made peace with four years. Around that time there was a shift in the social atmosphere at CTS. Exclusivity and power-cliques were being called out, and more people were stepping out of their exclusive groups to promote inclusivity. I started to finally feel at home at CTS. Graduation was still far off, but I didn’t mind so much.

At the end of my third year, I began to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I was sad to see so many of my peers graduate. Many of them had been with me through my entire seminary career up until this point. But I looked around and noticed that there were so many of us who had chosen the two-degree, four-year program. We were sticking it out together. And the majority of my friends were in the class that had entered seminary the year after me. I knew that I was going to be fine.

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I overloaded a few semesters so that my final year would be lower stress. After hours of Hebrew and Greek keeping me up late, after an especially tough semester when I wrote about 80 pages in 3 months, after struggling through and passing my ordination exams, I had a lighter load my final year. I interned at two small rural churches, I interned at the Outreach and Advocacy Center in downtown Atlanta working with people experiencing homelessness, and I took numerous electives. I enjoyed my work and I enjoyed my classes. It was a relief to take a breath during this last year and just enjoy the last months of my seminary education. It also freed me up to interview at churches to find a job for after graduation.

I was so excited for graduation day, counting down the days. People would approach me through the year and ask how many days we had left! At long last, I knew graduation was coming. But I also enjoyed my time. I took pleasure in my classes, my friends, the campus community, and all of the “lasts” (last dinners, lunches, meetings.) I wanted to savor the moments, not wish them away, as I looked forward.

I dreamed about graduation day for four years. The actual day was even more exciting and even more joyful than I had imagined. My husband, my mom, my grandmother, and my aunt came to cheer me on. They were all filled with joy, and all told me how proud they were of me. It made my heart so warm to hear these words.

My friends and I all laughed, took pictures, and cheered so loudly for each other when we accepted our diplomas. We were like giddy children. No matter how long we had been in seminary, 1 year or 4 years or somewhere in between, we had worked so hard for this day. Our communities were proud of us. And we were proud of ourselves!

I was surprised by winning two awards on top of my two degrees! I won the “Indiantown Country Church Award” for my work I did in the rural churches last summer. I also won the “William Rivers Waddey Award” for my work with youth ministry and my continued work with youth once I graduate. I was nominated by the faculty to receive these awards, and I had no idea I would be receiving them.

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I am filled with joy and gratefulness. I am grateful for the CTS faculty and staff, my mentors, pastors, and supervisors, my friends and family, my church, and my husband. Without this support I wouldn’t have been able to make it. I’m also a little sad. Goodbyes aren’t easy. But it’s ok that I’m sad. I’m glad CTS became a place that I am sad to leave.

God has reminded me that this call isn’t about me. God poured out the Spirit to calm me when I wanted to run. The Spirit whispered, “Just show up” when I was overwhelmed and didn’t know what to do. And I did. I just kept showing up, even if I didn’t know why. I wouldn’t be here without God’s guiding hand. Praise God for goodness, guidance, and peace. I struggled. I didn’t always have peace. I just remained as faithful as I could, and God’s grace did the rest.

 

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