Carol Carpenter Fisher
I feel blessed to have grown up in a family where there was never a question that my needs would be provided – a home, an education, and all the basics. My father died when I was young, and my mother did her best to meet all the needs of our family. And yet, I always seemed to want more – a love and joy that was unending and unconditional, no matter what.
My family moved several times around Virginia when I was growing up, but we generally landed in a Presbyterian church wherever we were. The church became a place of support for me – a place that welcomed me no matter what, and I went through Confirmation Class in high school. I was required to attend classes for many Saturday afternoons, with homework each week. Although I was diligent in my work, I never quite received that for which I longed – true love and acceptance, combined with a greater knowledge of the Christian faith.
It wasn’t until I joined a non-denominational fellowship group during my senior year of high school that I came to experience the joy of true koinonia – the communion and fellowship of believers in Christ where love, unity, struggles, and blessings were gladly and joyfully shared with one another. I finally experienced the love I had longed for, and soon afterward I began college.
While in college, I attended a local Presbyterian church and I felt led to begin a variety of Bible study and Christian fellowship groups on campus. Although my college was small, we had occasional staff support from Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship and Campus Crusade for Christ, both of which I enjoyed, and from which I greatly benefited. I even spent the summer following my sophomore year at Virginia Beach with college students from around the country who wanted to deepen their faith, as Campus Crusade for Christ staff led us to become more comfortable with sharing our faith stories.
I was a French major in college and I spent my junior year abroad – a year that I will always fondly remember. I don’t think I ever knew exactly what I would do after college to support myself. And so, during my senior year, when I began dreaming of my future, I had no idea of serving God in the church professionally, but God had a plan for me that I had never imagined. Through this phase of my spiritual growth, my faith was deeply emotional, and I knew that I needed more knowledge to strengthen it and balance it out with intellectual knowledge.
While talking with a Presbyterian pastor, I learned of the Presbyterian School of Christian Education (P.S.C.E.) in Richmond, VA. I felt led to obtain my M.A. degree in Christian Education, imagining myself serving the church as an educator. While there, I got to know several students from the seminary across the street, and I began imagining obtaining my Master of Divinity degree and serving the church as an Associate Pastor, thus allowing me to serve in several additional areas of ministry. Each step of this journey came with some stretching and opening my mind ever wider. I had been a quiet, shy child who never enjoyed speaking in public. And yet, now God was challenging ME to become a pastor! Who could have ever imagined such a thing? God did.
I never imagined being called to serve God and the church in so many ways and in seven different states.
I did serve three churches as an Associate Pastor, but friends, family, and the Holy Spirit kept nudging me to consider serving in other ways. When my children were young, I never envisioned serving as a solo pastor, but as my children grew older and more self-reliant, I began to become more open to new possibilities. As a result, I attended a Face-to-Face weekend event where representatives of churches and pastors met with each other to discern God’s plan for them. In two days, I talked with folks from 16 different churches, trying to be open to whatever God had in mind for me. I came away feeling called to serve as a solo pastor, which I now have done in four different congregations.
I never imagined being called to serve God and the church in so many ways and in seven different states. And yet, I feel blessed to have had the privilege and opportunity to become part of so many families across our country. I believe that God prepared me to be flexible by moving a good deal as a child, and my husband, Jay, and I have been blessed to gain so many new friends, some of whom became family to us.
Even though I attended a woman’s college that led me to believe that there were no barriers for women, I had never known a female pastor, and I had no vision of serving as one. Any yet, step by step, the Spirit of God led me to open myself to serve in ways I never could have imagined on my own. God blessed me with a spouse who, even though he is Roman Catholic by persuasion, could not have been more supportive of my call to ministry. I believe that the churches I have served have been blessed by his support and involvement as well.
We are at the close of the year 2020. It has been a year none of us could have anticipated with COVID-19. It has allowed and encouraged each of us to reflect on where we have been, and where we may be called to serve in the future. I give thanks for how the Spirit of God has touched my life, and hopefully through me, the lives of others. My life is dedicated to love, serve, and give of myself in whatever ways God may call me to serve, in order that God might be glorified. I never would have dreamt of all the roles in which God has used me, or all the places God has called me to serve, and I remain ever open to whatever might be next. To God be the glory this day and forevermore.
Your partner in ministry, Carol
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