Mieke Vandersall

Teaching Elder, Ordained 2004.

Many people ask me when it was that I first felt a call to ordained ministry. There barely is a time that I did not feel one. Trinity Presbyterian Church, a congregation just outside of St. Louis, MO, was the congregation of my birth. I was lucky enough to have some amazing pastors in that place who nurtured me in faith and saw a calling before I could put words to it. When I was in high school I was also trying to figure out who I was sexually, but did not feel confident or safe enough to explore that part of who I was in this context.

It was in college that I came out of the closet, to my family, to my church, to myself. It was a messy and good process — and through it all I knew even more that I was called to ordained service, helping to create a place where those who went after me had an easier time, being used as an agent of healing in this denomination that needed it so very badly.

And so after college, after working a few jobs that filled in some time, I couldn’t put this calling on hold any longer. I knew I couldn’t be closeted, I knew that would be too dangerous for my soul.

And so, despite the fact that only one other person had been ordained “out,” I believe God put in my heart no choice but to try. I began my process in the Presbytery of New York City and went about completing my education and passing the requirements. In actuality the committee and presbytery that nurtured me was a good one — but it wasn’t without imperfections. In being a first in recent memory, much education was done on my back. Much waiting and little communication was the story of my process. And through it I lived through a level of anxiety that I hope to never experience again.

But it could have been a thousand times worse. No charges were filed against my committee or presbytery. I had so many mentors and friends and colleagues who loved me through the process. I had those smarter than myself who guided me through the legal questions those of us who are LGBTQ have to live with. There were many saints who believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. I wish I could name them all… David, Janie, Lisa, Jon, Bill, Peg, Barbara, Anne, Cheryl, Nancy, Sam, Tricia, Doug, Chris, Pat…  so many more. In this sense I was not alone in the least.

I thought I had been called to parish ministry for many years. God, however, had other ideas, and I my first official “call” was as the Minister Director of Presbyterian Welcome, a local organization working for LGBTQ people in the Presbyterian Church. It was a bold thing, whether the presbytery knew about it or not, to ordain me into this position which has an open mission to change the church. I thought this was a starter call; I was a community organizer and activist, although I wanted to be a pastor. Little did I know at that point that through this work I would be a pastor, indeed, but to those who were also trying to change the church, those who are LGBTQ and still believe in the power of the Reformed tradition through the Presbyterian Church (USA). I work now with those who are going through the ordination process and who happen to be LGBTQ. Many are in New York City but they span throughout the country. I find ways for us to gather together in faith, community, and support. I have found that to be a pastor to them provokes activism, as we have to change policies so that we can all live into our calling. When you care about and love people you have to fight for them.

After these many years my calling has solidified and grown into this place and this time, and I couldn’t be more grateful to be called, right here and right now on the shoulders of so many who have gone before me and with the dreams of those who will come after.

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