by Rev. Lorri Baldwin
I always knew someday I would finally sit down and intentionally write, a book or two and my memoir … It has been in my heart and spirit ever since I was a child and a major part of my last two vision boards. Interestingly enough, I have been writing all of my life – from poems, liturgy and ministry materials, to lyrics of songs, and prayer guides. Even in elementary school, I started writing a book about what my teen and young adult years would look like by following three of my best friend’s lives from puberty. It’s interesting to realize how this seed has been growing within me over decades. What I now know, this is definitely a spiritual process.
In my twenty-one years of ordained ministry, as well as growing up active in the church, as a youth leader; director of Children/Youth and Family Life Ministries, I was required to write all of the time. From skits, to dialogue and narratives for the explanation of liturgical dances and even a 26-dance rendition of the Passion – I Know a Man. As editor of the Methodist Youth Fellowship (MYF) newsletter and a reporter, feature writer, eventually having my own column in my high school newspaper – the Calumet Crier; I was unconsciously utilizing a skill of creative writing that had gone pretty much unnoticed. And the journey continued …
While living in Los Angeles, I was a contributing writer to my church’s newspaper: The Bell-ringer’ sponsored by the United Methodist News Media network. Upon returning to Chicago, I assisted in transforming my home church’s newsletter the St. Mark Voice into an actual printed newspaper with the connection and knowledge I acquired in L.A. In my new church setting, as a seminarian, the Assistant Pastor learned of my newsletter/paper writing experiences. I was again, invited to be: feature writer, assistant and managing editor of the “Mufundisi” (in Shona, meaning Preacher/Teacher) of our newsletter.
Somewhere along my journey, I have taken a few creative writing courses and workshops at a community center, retreat and even the museum. I volunteered at the DuSable Museum of African American History in Chicago writing articles about the museum’s activities for the Women’s Auxiliary Board newsletter and worked as a curator assistant researching and writing the informational cards for exhibits as an intern.
Yes, writing has been an intricate and very important part of my life, as a coordinator of programs, ministry leader, Youth and Assistant Pastor. I believe some of us take for granted just how much we write creatively because it is so much a part of what we do in our everyday lives.
When I began to create for intentional, purposeful reasons like educational and teaching moments; the time, work and effort it takes to accomplish my goal hardly ever comes into the equation. I believe it is because I love what I do and know it will encourage and enhance others’ wellbeing … It’s a labor of love. Therefore, writing especially spiritual writing like preparing for a Bible study course or workshop/retreat and a sermon is life-changing and a true calling. It becomes the very fabric of the reason why I do what I do in the first place. I love it.
In hindsight, my writing has been pragmatic and intentional utilizing my skills I honed as a city planner and project manager when writing grants, proposals and project reports. In grant writing, funders love the personal, heartfelt stories about those constituents who are helped and their lives made better because of grant-funding with city/government programs and projects. What I enjoyed most is sharing life experiences, giving hope to the readers that lives can be changed by generous contributions to society through their grants and programs. This too, I counted as ministry for most of my professional life I focused on improving the lives of those I served.
Therefore, when I began to seriously think about how to approach the research and studies for my doctoral program – It became very apparent, God had already chosen me for this task. Even before entering school, looking back on some of the research papers and thesis proposal paper, I realized I had actually written much of my research ahead of time.
Journaling is one of the daily writing practices I have always done. As I looked for material to see what exactly I had already written – the light-bulb experience reminded me that I had at least two books in the making in (8 – 10) of my journals; I have kept chronologically sharing my experiences: challenges, obstacles and successes on this faith-journey called ministry/mission. While overseas, I catalogued everything from my first impressions on a traveling seminar to the Congo (the first time) with McCormick seminary in the middle 1990’s to my field studies in ministry/missions for four months in Zimbabwe in 1996 and everything in between.
As a missionary, I utilized my Bible study lessons about women in the Bible with a home-based Bible study group in Mbuji Maya, West Congo actually originating from vignettes and Bible studies with my Chicago-based women ministry the Circle of Ruth.
You see, my ministry work with women especially as the Advisor to the Women and Children Department of the Presbyterian Church in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as a Clergy/Mission Worker gave me the opportunity to see the issues I would lift up as an inter- denominational, universal challenge for women in ministry worldwide. Also, my experience with women of all creeds, nationalities and denominations/religions has equipped me for this.
As I wrote my thesis hypothesis on the issue I wanted to solve in ministry for the Doctor of Ministry degree at Chicago Theological Seminary, I was somewhat astonished that God had prepared me over the years ‘for such a time as this’. Being an originating member of a Women’s ministry that became an inter-generational, inter-denominational, aggregate of women who had to challenge the status-quo of the Church in order to acknowledge, hear, preserve and value the voices of women and their needs in the Church universal.
My re-imagined call of ministry at this time in my life. Therefore, writing intentionally.