May 28, 2020 | News by Rev. Mark Brainerd
This August, Preston Hollow Presbyterian Church welcomes our 2020-2022 Monie Pastoral Resident. Joining our team will be Jean (Jeannie) Corbitt, a native of Conway, Arkansas, a Candidate under care of the Presbytery of Arkansas, and a 2020 graduate of Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary.
Early this spring, Matthew Ruffner and I traveled to Austin to interview candidates for the position. Immediately, we found Jeannie engaging, thoughtful and enthused about her call to ministry and the potential of further exploring that call among us at PHPC. We were delighted when she accepted our invitation to join us in ministry here.
As we eagerly await her arrival later this summer, I asked Jeannie to reflect on her sense of calling to ministry.
“My sense of calling has developed slowly, over the course of many complex, beautiful, and painful experiences,” Jeannie says, “experiences of being stunned by the beauty of this world and of awakening to the depth of suffering in this world, experiencing nights spent under starry national park skies and nights spent saying goodbye in hospital rooms.”
She continues, “But the thread that has connected all of those moments for me has been a sense that God was always there...in the stunning moments of my life and the most painful, in places I expected and places I didn’t. Experiencing God’s presence in those ways cultivated my sense of calling to articulate that presence, to help others feel it, and to listen for and act upon the calls to justice, grace, and mercy that we hear when we stand in God’s presence.”
I asked Jeannie why a pastoral residency is the right next step for her at this time.
“I feel like I’m at a place in life where I have much to offer pastorally but also much still to learn,” she says. “I love the way a residency provides a place for both of those things. I love that the place it provides is in the context of community with other pastors. I really believe we live, learn, and grow best alongside others, so I am excited to have two years of doing just that.”
Jeannie is particularly interested in Christian education, pastoral care, mission and outreach, worship leadership, and preaching. The Monie Pastoral Residency will provide Jeannie with a comprehensive approach to these areas and more, so that as she completes her time with us, she will be well prepared to launch into the future that God has planned. Meanwhile, we have much to look forward to as Jeannie brings her considerable gifts, skills and pastoral sensitivity to share among us while she continues learning and discerning.
This year, Jeannie was awarded the David L Stitt Fellowship, a top senior prize at Austin Seminary, awarded to one member of the senior class on the recommendation of the Faculty. The purpose of the fellowship is to support continued study; and selection is made on the basis of scholarship, Christian character, personality, and ability.
On this occasion, Professor Cynthia Rigby remarked, “Jeannie Corbitt is already a star theologian because she understands that bearing witness to mystery requires respecting and navigating seemingly paradoxical tensions. She recently identified ‘what if’ questions as the only questions that bring us closer to God: What if I’m wrong? What if miracles happen? What if that isn’t the end?” Professor Rigby adds, “Thank you, Jean, for welcoming angels into your head, for being fearless about seeking value in the most traditional voices of the Christian tradition, and for being fearless, also, about challenging them.”
As she ponders what she is most looking forward to as she joins us in ministry, Jeannie says it is, “answering God’s call to ministry in the fullest way that I have yet in my life.” She continues, “I know that answering God’s calls usually involves a lot of growing, a lot of trusting, and a lot of discomfort. But I also know that when we answer God’s calls we are met with unimaginable grace. I look forward to teaching and learning, to lifting and being lifted, to challenging and being challenged.”
Knowing well that it is no small undertaking to complete seminary and move to a new community and undertake such a calling as a resident, I asked Jeannie how we can best support her. “Just by recognizing that I am in that liminal context of being a pastor and still learning to be a pastor. So, trusting that I have gifts to offer, but also extending understanding and grace as I figure out who I am as a pastor,” Jeannie says. I have assured her that we are a friendly bunch, and that grace abounds!
On a more personal note, Jeannie loves going on walks and finding special spots to read, write, and pray. She loves going to museums, plays, and musicals. She likes hearing people’s stories. Typically anything involving animals (pets, seeing wild animals, riding horses, etc.), she will regard as the best thing ever. On a random note, she says that she really loves terrariums, and she’s trying to get into making those. However, she admits she is bad at keeping plants alive. So that is one of the current conundrums of her existence.
We will find ways in the coming weeks and months for the congregation to personally welcome Jeannie to our community of faith. For now, please join me in prayer for her transition from seminary to the church, and in giving God thanks for this exciting season ahead.
The Monie Pastoral Residency is made possible by families and individuals with the foresight to create an opportunity for a recent seminary graduate to share with us in ministry as they serve and learn alongside our staff and church members. We are deeply grateful for this program and the generosity and vision that empowers it. If you have questions about the program, contact me at .