Pastor Heather Bailes Baker has been at the United Methodist Church of Osterville since July 1, 2016. We’ve asked her 12 questions that will help you get to know her better.
Get to know Pastor Heather Bailes Baker.
(Click on each question to display Pastor Heather’s answer)
1. Pastor Heather, from your view, what’s the role of a Pastor?
I’ve found the call to ordained ministry is a call to many roles, many hats. I’m a preacher, teacher, cheerleader, administrator, listener, provoker, comforter, questioner, worship designer, fire starter, ember blower, holy-noticer. Some of my favorite descriptions have come from members in churches I’ve served: spark plug, coach, vision caster, teammate, joy tender. This early in my time at UMC of Osterville, I’m still finding which roles are most needed, and which can be carried by other leaders in the congregation.
2. Did you always imagine you’d be a Pastor?
No, when I started college I was going to be an architectural engineer and design roller coasters, an astronaut, or some kind of mediator/arbitrator working for peace between people, between nations–who knows. There may be a little of all those things in ministry. I did however imagine I’d be involved in the church. I started preaching as a lay speaker when I was 14. I enjoyed it so much, I thought it would be something I’d continue to do as a lay person, while pursuing something different professionally. I wonder who in our congregation just this moment like me thinks they’re headed in one direction, but are about to find out that God has something else in store. I’m excited to find out!
3. Who were some of the mentors that you had?
I’ve had so many mentors. My parents are both teachers, adventurers, and disciples of Jesus. They raised me in the United Methodist Church and a lot of the saints of my life come from the church where I was baptized, confirmed and blessed into ministry. Both my parents and my home church raised me to value the community of faith, to sing my faith, to ask a lot of questions, and to be who and whose I’m called to be. One pastor in particular had a profound impact on my life. Pastor Debbie just oozed love and joy. She made ministry look meaningful, joyful, and fun. She was also the first to invite me to preach. Tom Wolfe, my chaplain in college helped me recognize and answer my call, and was courageous and a powerfully prophetic preacher. Karen Oliveto, now Bishop Oliveto, was my internship supervisor when I was in seminary. She modeled enthusiastic, passionate, purposeful, all-inclusive worship and ministry. I’ve also been blessed by some truly wonderful District Superintendents who have shaped different parts of my ministry. And, of course, I have been shaped and molded by hundreds of church members in each church I’ve served who have shaped, taught, challenged, comforted, and encouraged me along the way.
4. What’s the most challenging part of being a Pastor?
It’s a strange gig ministry–some of the things that are the most difficult emotionally and mentally are also the most rewarding. Conversely, some seemingly simple tasks are exhausting. The blank page, a sermon waiting to be written, each and every Monday can be intimidating, but it’s also an awesome invitation. Paperwork is certainly necessary but it doesn’t feed or delight my soul. All stalling aside, I would say the most difficult part of ministry for me is dealing with conflict, especially the little, interpersonal conflicts that are such a part of life anytime two people, let alone 200 have to work together.
5. What encourages you?
Personally, my kids delight and amaze me. My spouse is a wonderful sounding board and support system. I’m also close to my parents and my sister and find our conversations, and visits, leave me feeling refreshed and encouraged.
Spiritually, I find different practices renew my soul. Silence is balm to my soul and fuels my creativity. Corporate worship, hands on mission, devotional reading, study, prayer, etc, each practice shows me a little something different about God, God’s people, and myself.
Professionally, I’m inspired by opportunities to learn new things, whether it’s reading something new, or attending a conference. Hands-on mission re-centers me and reminds me why I do the things I do. I’m also encouraged by all the youth of our church and their desire to serve others. How awesome is that? Our staff are amazing, gifted, passionate, called. I so appreciate our weekly meetings where we have an opportunity to review what’s happened and improve upon it, and look forward with clarity of vision.
Beyond our local church I also find small gatherings of clergy, women clergy here in Barnstable, a United Methodist Clergy Cluster on the Cape, and a small group of clergy who work with a consultant monthly–they all recharge and reinvigorate me.
6.Who are your favorite authors?
Ooh…how long do I have? I love Robert Fulghum. His book on Ritual is my ritual is probably my favorite but I’ve read most if not all of his stuff, once, twice, and more. Bill Bryson is consistently fun and I always learn something. Nadia Bolz-Weber is a Lutheran pastor who makes me laugh while challenging what I think I know about ministry, the church, and the gospel. Robert Sawyer is a favorite sci-fi writer and I think I’ve read everything Kage Baker has written. Jasper Fforde’s fantasy is always fun. Sadly Douglas Adam’s won’t write anything new, but if he could, I’d read it. He can make brewing the perfect cup of tea a good read. For fiction, I love Jane Austin and the stories her stories have inspired, Alexander McCall Smith, and oh thanks to the book club I just discovered Juliette Fay . Denise Giardina is a WV author I really enjoy. For poetry, I really enjoy Mary Oliver, Wendell Berry, and David Whyte. So many good books, too little time.
7. Talk about your family.
The older I get, the more I realize how very lucky and blessed I am. I love my family! I grew up in West Virginia and my parents live in the house that I grew up in, on a small family farm. My grandparents lived just a half mile away, and we shared the work of the farm. There I learned not just how to bale and stack hay, but also how amazing food can taste at the end of a hard day’s work, and the importance of everybody pitching in to help. My parents were both teachers and instilled a deep and passionate love of learning and reading. They’ve both retired now but still find ways to teach. Mom is active in the United Methodist Women and my Dad is in a rock band, “Rain Crow.” I love going home to see them and my extended family. My sister, Stephanie, now lives in North Carolina with her husband and my niece and nephew. We laugh a lot, eat well, tell a lot of stories and genuinely enjoy being together.Sam and I met as freshmen in college, at Syracuse University. We were married twice, once on Baker Beach in San Francisco, and a year later in North River Mills, WV. Sam is a graphic designer who works from home with clients across the US and around the world. I confess, I don’t always understand everything he does. When we have time, we watch a lot of movies together, and we both love to read. Smart and witty, Sam makes me laugh a lot and challenges me to be better than I am.Our children are now in first and third grade. Ellie was born in California and Charlie, born in Springfield, Ma was my “ordination” baby. He was born just 24 hours after I was ordained. They’re amazing. They’re funny and kind, and enjoy computer games, time outside, and family movie night. They’re enjoying school and just how close they are to the beach. Both kids have studied susuki, one violin the other cello. I’ve found parenting to be an humbling, delightful adventure as I discover how very little I know, and how amazing they are.
8. What are your strengths?
I’m curious and I love learning. I genuinely love people. My creativity is a strength, as is my enthusiasm for life, the work of the church, and the people of God. At this point I’d say I’m cynically optimistic, or maybe I’m an optimistic cynic.
9. How does this help you as a Leader/Pastor?
I use my creativity not just in creating worship experiences and preaching, but in a lot of the other parts of my work and communication. I find my willingness to try almost anything makes the unexpected parts of ministry fun, or at very least adventurous. I find curiosity can make the challenges and conflicts of ministry if not easier, at least more interesting, and less anxiety producing.
10. What encourages you most as a pastor of a growing church?
It’s wonderful to see new faces each and every week. And I’m noticing that I can’t always tell who is new and who’s not, because the welcome appears to be just as warm either way. That’s wonderful, and invitational, and leads to more and more growth. Even more than that though, I love when people discover something new or remember some part of their call, their relationship with God. I love those holy moments when some realizes what is true for them: grace, peace, justice. In the church we work with these huge, sometimes intangible theological concepts. To catch of a glimpse of faith becoming tangible is a powerful moment.
11. What are the barriers to growth for our UMC?
I think the barriers to growth are the same in most churches. As human beings, each of us like things the way we like them, and it can be a really hard thing to make space for another to experience the holy in a way that is meaningful for them. We could sing my favorite three songs every Sunday, and read my favorite books on rotation, but we grow when we’re learning, challenging ourselves and one another, creatively experimenting, and stepping out in faith. We’re also up against some cultural barriers, as the role and place of the church in contemporary society has changed. I try to see these barriers as opportunities for creative flexibility, finding new ways to be the church, and share hope with the world.
12. What is your favorite scripture?
Honestly it depends on the moment. I love the intimacy of Psalm 139 and the reminder that you and I are loved as we are and that there’s no where God wouldn’t go to find us. I love the metaphors of Isaiah–where else do we hear God described as a dragon slaying gardener (my paraphrase). The promise of Romans 8, that there is nothing, nothing, nothing stronger than the love of God, is a promise that gives me hope and strength for tomorrow. And Ecclesiastes 3: 20-21, is the scripture I have on the back of my ordination stole–it reminds me that God can do even more than we can ask or imagine, and in God the possibilities are endless.