Pastor Brenda Smith (right) with Pastor Becca Ehrlich. Photo Credit: Becca Ehrlich.
“Last September, after the synod staff and I met with a number of our rostered ministers, we realized how incredibly not OK many were after dealing with nearly two years of ministry and life in the pandemic,” says Bishop Tim Smith. “The Synod Council asked, ‘What do you think we need?’ and I said, ‘We have counselors and coaches and spiritual directors, but I think we need a pastor.’ Someone who will talk to people and process the hard stuff they’re carrying, and someone who’s not on the synod staff. Then the Holy Spirit dropped Pastor Brenda in our lap.”
Last fall, the Rev. Brenda Smith became available for prayer and pastoral care to NC Synod rostered ministers and their families, meeting by Zoom and phone. Pastor Brenda has previously served with the ELCA Churchwide expression and on prayer teams across the ELCA, including with NC Synod staff as part of intentional prayer ministry.
Pastor Brenda and Bishop Tim met in 2016 when she came to Charlotte as part of the synod’s response to the racially charged riots there, and they struck up a friendship. “Pastor Brenda has a marvelous gift for prayer and pastoral conversation,” says Bishop Tim. “She is a remarkably compassionate person.”
Pastor Brenda also recognized the need for this ministry from hearing the experiences of friends serving in congregations. “Not only were they struggling with the challenges of moving their congregations virtual, but also just missing being able to be with their members, not being able to fulfill all of their roles, the stress of being isolated, being home with children—I already knew that pain was out there,” she says. “So when the opportunity came to be in prayer with those in the North Carolina Synod, I thought it was something I would like to do.”
“We’re grateful to the Synod Council for hearing the need and setting aside the financial resources to make this possible,” says Bishop Tim. “Someone on our Council said, ‘We’ve always talked about keeping funds in reserve for a rainy day, and it seems to me it’s been raining for two years now.’ I responded, ‘Amen, and some of our clergy are drowning.’”
Pastor Brenda is intentionally not a member of the synod staff in order for her to maintain confidentiality. Her role is designed as a safe space for rostered ministers to share honestly, away from the administrative duties of synod staff. The response has been one of gratefulness. “People have thanked me for reaching out to them, and thanked me for the ministry and told me that it’s important,” says Pastor Brenda.
Bishop Tim says that while reading the annual reports to the bishop from pastors and deacons, the main struggles leaders share are still related to the pandemic and its effect on ministry. But the most recurring hopeful comment is thankfulness for Pastor Brenda. “For a lot of her people, she has been a lifeline,” he says.
While Pastor Brenda’s ministry has been remote, she is excited to attend the NC Synod Gathering in person, June 2-4, to meet many of the leaders with whom she has prayed. “I wanted to come meet everyone because I feel a strong connection to them now,” she says. “Please come say hi to me!”
“I personally have felt a greater connection to God through this,” says Pastor Brenda. “It’s given me a sense of purpose in this season of my life that I just needed, so I’m eternally grateful to everyone who allowed me to pray with them, and to the synod for having me do it.”
Pastor Brenda is available to provide prayer and pastoral care to NC Synod rostered ministers and their families. Connect with her by email to reserve your spot: email@example.com.
Because of your generosity, this ministry is possible. Thank you!