Everything I Really Needed to Know About Ministry, I Learned as a Sorority Rush Chair.

HerKentucky is thrilled to welcome Erin Smallwood Wathen for another brilliant post! I first met Erin when we were sorority sisters at Transylvania; I love this beautiful essay on how our Phi Mu days prepared her for her work in the ministry! -- HCW

I used to want to be a dancer. Preferably on Broadway. I wanted to be an English teacher. I wanted to be the boss of a newspaper or magazine. I wanted to write children’s books. I dabbled in the idea of sociology, and had a brief affair—you know, college experimentation—with what life might be like in the non-profit world.

But never in 800 years would it have occurred to my pre-adulthood self that, “Hey, I’m going to be a preacher!”

Yeah, God’s got a sense of humor like that. This calling sneaked up on me like an April snow in Kentucky—you know it can happen, but you never quite let yourself read the signs, you know? Anyway…I spent my youth, and even my college career, utterly oblivious to the signs that I was headed for a life in ministry.  And yet, I was being shaped for this calling at every moment along the way.

I look around at my life every now and then and say, you know, I really caught a glimpse of this pastor gig when I was teaching dance. Or waiting tables. Or when I found my first real soul friend in 7th grade. Or sitting on the porch with my Mamaw. Or reading the first few books that really blew the top off the world.
Growing up Kentucky, I learned the sacred nature of hospitality, especially where food is involved; I developed a sense of place, and a love of the vernacular; I valued music, art and literature that is engaging, authentic, and unfussy; and really, I just took in the truth that air, soil, and even the moisture in the air smacks of something holy. Every breath of the place—making me ready for this time in my life, whether I knew it or not.

And while it may not sound as spiritual as, say, tobacco hanging in a barn or good bluegrass music or real fried chicken: everything I really needed to know about ministry, I learned as a sorority rush chair.

1. If it fits on a t-shirt, it’s probably not that important. But
2. matching tshirts are still important, in a philosophical sort of way.
3. Fake it til you make it. The appearance of a growing organization will actually evolve into a growing organization.
4. Sleep deprivation is a bonding experience. (Rush week=mission trip, church camp, leadership retreat, Holy week, etc)
5. A beautiful, welcoming space is not an extravagance; it is hospitality.
6. Singing loudly is more important than singing well.
7. Manners, manners, manners.
8. Put the pretty people in front.
9. We’re all pretty people.
10. As long as there’s food, people are happy.
11. The more important a ritual is supposed to be, the more likely you are to laugh at inappropriate times.
11.5. Laughter=also a sacred ritual.
12. Voting people out will always come back to haunt you.

There are no big moments, small moments, or waiting spaces. There is no downtime, and there is no endgame. It is all the perfect, winding way of grace, and it will always take us somewhere good, eventually…Someplace where the grass is blue, the people are real, and ‘fried’ is not a 4-letter word.

You can read more from Erin on her blog, Irreverin, and her Facebook page.