SPM: Sara Practices Ministry?


So the spring semester ended a couple weeks ago. As final grades are trickling in, I think I did okay.I intend to print off my grades and mail them to my mom so she can post them on her refrigerator. If you’re curious about my GPA, I suppose you’ll have to stop in and visit her. If you’re curious about my summer, you’ll get to read about it here. I’m taking a couple credits of SPM (Sara Practices Ministry… or Student Practicum Ministry… or basically one of those acronyms that is seminary speak for an internship.) This summer I’ll be learning about pastor stuff using a church as the classroom. 

This summer brings a different routine and I’m finding I already miss “normal” class. The stability of a consistent schedule (which I promise I hate) grounds me. Predictability is comfortable, after all. And I could predict a few things about this summer. I already love the church. Quite a few professors and students are active in this congregation, but the hospitality extended to me, and also to Steve, is incredible. 

I feel sort of like a baby duck placed in a box under a heat lamp with all of these friendly faces and voices encouraging me to grow. (I would have said baby chick but I’m still quite conscious of the whole female pastor thing, so I didn’t think a chick pastor would be appropriate.)

Part of the SPM experience includes picking areas for learning with different objectives and action steps. I’ll be focusing on planning and leading worship this summer. I’ll also practice listening, spiritual journaling, and making better food choices. Part of the spiritual journal component will be a weekly blog post. I really want to get in the habit of balancing the transparent, personal journaling for me with the discipline of being vulnerable in a public arena. We’ll see how that goes. 

I leave for General Assembly in 11 days, too. Hopefully there will be some time to blog a little of that while I’m in Detroit. I worked a little GA expectations into my learning covenant for the summer, too. 

I preach this coming Sunday at church. If you’re the praying kind of person, I would appreciate your prayers for me as I prepare. I’ve already received a lot of advice on that. My mom’s encouragement: “You are good at talking. Just don’t say um as much.” My brother’s advice, “Just end it like you did with that one sermon… say ‘that’s all I have to say about that.'” 

I’ve already decided this time around I need to write out everything. My first official Sunday included leading worship in a retirement home and though it went okay, I was a little caught off guard with how nervous I was. While planning, I assumed I could switch from paper to book and preach from an outline. Nerves kicked in and I stumbled over words and shuffled papers more than I intended. The residents that showed up were gracious and I was super grateful for the help of a gifted piano player and singer. At least they got to hear great music, even if the preaching was sub par? It was a good starting point. I’m going to know more and be better at the end of the summer. 

Assembling a sermon is a little more interesting this time around. I could write an exegesis paper on the passage. That’s comfortable after two semesters of classes. I could flesh out a worship service on paper, too. I’ve done two of those as graded final assignments. I just need to find a way to work depth and accessibility into a sermon and then actually deliver it. I’ll check back in after Sunday. 

About SaraBSutter

I serve as the pastor of United Presbyterian Church in Goldfield, Iowa. My husband Steve and I are excited to be in a friendly small town and look forward to the years ahead. In addition to nerdy church stuff, I love reading books, writing, good coffee, cats, and football.

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