The Rev. Cory L. Kemp brings a background in communications, social change and development, women’s studies and pastoral ministry to her work as faith coach and mentor.
Cory founded Broad Plains Faith Coaching to support you as a woman of faith: Ordained or laywoman serving a congregation; business owner or community influencer. Providing sacred space, helping you define and direct your beliefs as creative, powerful leadership skills, is what she loves to do best.
Over forty years of journaling experience gives Cory a uniquely powerful perspective on charting life challenges and faith transformations. Putting into practice the journaling skills she gathered and developed, Cory created her signature coaching program, Handcrafted Faith, to give you the pragmatic tools and personal support to be visible, present and powerful in your life and leadership.
I believe religious reformation comes in knowing what we want, who we serve, and being willing to take action for both.
Raised and ordained in one of the oldest surviving churches to break away from the Roman Catholic Church, I saw myself as part of a vibrant tradition of social change. My vision was to support women in living faithfully, in whatever work spoke through their souls, contributing to their church fellowships and making the world better than they found it. Seminars, retreats, Bible studies that felt so real to me, were aching to be created and shared.
But I felt little encouragement or support to explore my call within the existing religious form of my denomination. Pastors served congregations. Beyond that, you were on your own. I felt clueless on how to craft what I felt so deeply within me. Reluctantly accepting a call with a small congregation, the rich theological traditions and worship practices remained, but they became hollow shells, deaf plaintiffs to the defense of my dreams.
One conversation, with an older minister, whom I suspect saw a bit of himself in me, was something I never took for granted. I didn’t understand how ministers we knew kept doing the same things each year, complaining about how bored they were. Why didn’t they do something else? My confidant’s response was immediate, heartfelt: “They don’t know how to do anything else,” he said. “But you do. You are meant for more.” Not long after we spoke, I resigned, completing service to my denomination.
What I have come to believe is that we all yearn for more, because we are all meant for more. Choosing to express, to act on that yearning, that is the difference between stagnation and new life.
Working in retail sales unexpectedly became an easier fit. While helping customers find furniture for their homes and clothing for their children, I unwittingly discovered my congregation.
For all the time lost leading worship and celebrating the seasons of the church year, I gained unique access, precious time in conversation with many women who also no longer felt welcome or encouraged to be wholly themselves among God’s elect. From them I learned the truly wonderful nature that a sales position offers in asking people questions that open their hearts. “What can I help you find?” often leads to, “What do you want?” Answering that question reveals layers of stories and rules blocking our way forward. For myself, I realized how much I ached for a deeper, more meaningful connection with God, with my own inner wisdom.
But, there was more.
An Orthodox Jewish woman, with whom I had spoken many times, excitedly brought her husband to meet me. God granted me witness to conversations, in gentle, lyrical Arabic between mothers and teenaged daughters. A customer shopping for her grandchildren shared that I had supported her as a leader in her faith community, something she rarely allowed herself. My Muslim colleague taught me two favorite words: mashallah, give credit to God; alhamdulillah, give thanks to God. In this loosely woven, diverse community, we were living modern scripture.
Even as I helped find chairs for their homes, my customers helped me see that I had lost faith in myself. Even as they helped me come back to my purpose, I helped them choose the coming home outfits for their babies. Meeting these small boys and girls, the first two things they wanted to show me were their smiles and the bottoms of their feet, their hearts and souls. It became my turn to look into my own heart and soul: What did I want? My grandma’s one sentence legacy gave me my clue: Whether you know it or not you live by what you believe.
My daily journaling practice, spanning thirty-eight years, reminded me of my long-held desire, to serve women in the faith community. Even in work that was provision, if not always satisfying, I had made a place for myself. Being able to see what I had accomplished allowed me to understand how I could employ myself, my faith, in serving exactly as I envisioned.
Receiving support from women ahead of me on the journey, honoring my gifts and my vision of expressed wholeness for all women, has become the way forward through creation, development and sharing of faith coaching programs through my business, Broad Plains Faith Coaching.
In allowing myself to be more visible, I discovered that God became more knowable. Paul wrote, in his letter to the church at Rome, “The gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” (Romans 11:29) My gifts and calling did not disappear or diminish because I worked in sales. It now appears that I created religious reformation in my own life, serving God in a much broader community than I had imagined. My denomination’s theology, worship and traditions have served me well. But I also know I am more than these because I was meant for more.
And I still believe we all yearn for more because we are all meant for more. But that is not for me to decide for anyone but myself. What we want to be, to do, is about the faith we have in ourselves and acting on that faith to make it happen. I believe that religious reformation is brought about by faith transformation, individually handcrafting what we believe, visibly living out trust in God, who is always with us, always knowable, right where we are. Religious structures, worship and traditions are important, but they only become vibrant reality in the living of our days.
In conversation with a bishop of my church near the end of his life, his face lit up and his eyes sparkled as he told me that he loved the ancient hymns of our denomination because they spoke of action. On this first day of a new year, I invite you to do three things for yourself: choose what you want; choose who you serve; and take action.
Rev. Cory L. Kemp serves as owner and faith coach at Broad Faith Plains Coaching, helping women connect with their inner voices of truth and wisdom, encouraging them to be visible and powerful in their way of looking at the world and how they contribute to it, so they may make a lasting impact with their lives and work. She warmly invites you to get in touch to find out more about her work and see if her approach can support you in living faithfully from your heart and soul. She can be reached at email@example.com.
The following essay is a response to the article, Embracing Refextivity Through Spiritually Reflexive Groups in the Training and Support of Clergy, by The Rev. Dr. Peter M. Gubi, Ph. D., published in the current issue of The Hinge: International Theological Dialog for the Moravian Church, and is used by permission.
This article raises the combined truth that clergy need support and seminarians can learn how to create that support during vocational education. Central to this experience is individual willingness to be visible in receiving from and giving to other group members. It is a powerful reminder that, as individual creations of God, we are also one in God as we live, move and have our being.
My response here opens the conversation to your willingness, our mutual willingness, as clergy to be visible, to receive support from other ministers. How does that intention then influence the Moravian Church?
Hiding is an automatic awareness on our part as clergy. Have you stopped yourself from sharing a great book title because it may not seem quite right for a minister’s reading list? Have you held back your opinion in conversation because you are afraid the other person will misconstrue your intent
You know this place, in your particular way. In the end, you want to serve God and pay your bills. These are not unreasonable, nor do they have to be, mutually exclusive goals. But visibility feels vulnerable, uncomfortable, and sometimes financially unstable, even more so if you see yourself in competition for a limited number of pastoral positions.
However, invisibility comes at an incredibly high cost. Hiding your best self behind the fear of other people’s judgments eventually leads to forgetting who you are, making yourself invisible to you. What comes begging is the question of whose life you are living and to what end, breeding suspicion and distrust among those who potentially want to, and can choose to be, supportive colleagues. Besides embodying the antithesis of the gospel’s freedom to serve God without fear, it is a horrible, disempowering way to live.
Choosing visibility begins with a question you can ask yourself: What do I really, really, really want? My mentors have taught me that we human beings are united in our desire to be seen, heard and loved. There is no greater gift you can give yourself; there is no greater gift that we can give each other, echoing the Great Commandment and the second that is like it. Being visible with each other in vocational support groups demands and benefits from remembering, especially in our words, our shared humanity.
The power of this truth was underscored for me in sharing a social media post. One clergy colleague offered a somewhat sarcastic response. Others, from my business coaching community, focused on my work, its alignment with my vision and purpose. My words also supported them and their work. I immediately noticed this difference, where I felt seen, heard and valued as myself, living my call. That experience is what I want to give because I know how uplifting it felt to receive.
Do you fully understand how you come across to other people? However you answer that question, my guess is that you, like many, are all too ready to criticize yourself for most of what you have done, as well as for all the things you have left undone. That easily becomes all you are capable of hearing from anyone else. Constructive feedback is vital; encouraging support builds confidence and collegiality.
When you are willing to see your whole self, all that you have already received from God, your next step forward allows you to receive support from other people. You individually live your life and call, but you cannot do it without help. Being whole, beginning with seeing all of yourself, allows you to ask for the help you want. When you are standing in your full worth, asking to receive support, you honor the example Jesus gave in his life.
Jesus regularly sought the disciples’ help, perhaps most poignantly the evening of his arrest, asking them to just stay awake with him. They failed miserably at that, but Jesus didn’t love or value them any less.
People also regularly came to Jesus to ask for his help. And when they came to him for help, Jesus didn’t start by telling those vulnerable women and men about their shortcomings as a prerequisite to receiving his support. He didn’t assume what they needed. Jesus asked each person what they wanted.
Supporting one another in mutually strengthening ways, really seeing, hearing and appreciating each other, does mean letting go of the familiar need to be right, liked and take things personally. It means abandonment of the quick, cynical insider remarks in favor of paying attention to how you listen, to your own inner wisdom and to other ministers.
What do you really, really, really want? How do you want to serve God’s greatest good at this point in your ministry? How visible are you willing to become in making that happen? What support are you willing to ask for and receive from your clergy colleagues? This is something you can choose to model, something that can be shared with seminarians, newly-ordained clergy and those who continue on with their work as faithful individuals in community. In doing so, you ease the burden of feeling you must fit yourself into someone else’s perception; you are no longer filling a slot, but allowing God to work through you.
How might these individual decisions and responses influence the Moravian Church? I believe that as the leadership of the denomination chooses visibility, wholeness is revealed among all of us. We become more, magnifying God through our collective soul.