Rev. Elizabeth Gleich
Majors: Peace Studies and Theology
Year of Graduation: 2012
Graduate School: Yale Divinity School, 2015 with Master of Divinity
Current Position/Location: Associate Pastor at the Congregational Church of Middlebury, VT
Please give a brief description of your current position.
As Associate Pastor, I preach during services, administer sacraments, make pastoral visits, work with the surrounding community on issues related to faith and justice (climate change, immigrant rights, women's rights), lead adult Faith Formation programs, and perform weddings and funerals.
What path did you follow to get to your current position?
It has been a long journey from St. Ben's to my current position. Because of my passion for theology (feminist theology in particular) and the way it compelled me to work for peace in the world, after graduating, I enrolled at Yale Divinity School to study theology more in depth. While there, I discovered my emerging call to pastoral ministry. I witnessed women preaching and presiding over communion, I was friends with women studying to become priests and pastors, and I was exposed to Protestant forms of worship and liturgy. I had two internships as chaplain in a hospital and a chaplain in a community mental health center. I discovered skills that I never knew I had. Two years into my time at divinity school, I discerned that I could no longer be a part of the Roman Catholic Church. It was an excruciating decision, since it was the church I loved so dearly and that had formed me into the woman of faith that I am today. I found the United Church of Christ, which is a liberal Protestant denomination, which has its roots in Congregationalism, Evangelical and German Reformed traditions. The United Church of Christ was the first denomination to ordain a woman, first to ordain an openly gay man, and the first Christian church to affirm the right of same-gender couples to marry. As a Catholic, I was raised to be a faith-filled person who advocated for the rights of the vulnerable, and this was a church that lived out its mission of justice in the world. In 2015, I joined a church in New Haven and began my discernment process towards ordination. After divinity school, I spent a year as a chaplain resident at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, serving as the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and Pediatric Intensive Care Unit Chaplain. In 2017 I was ordained as pastor and teacher in the United Church of Christ, and I served as Associate Pastor for Children and Youth Ministries at First Church in Glastonbury, CT.
What advice/suggestions would you have for students who might be interested in your career?
There may be more people than one might think at St. Ben's or St. John's feeling called to one form of ministry or another. The monastery and the Theology and Peace Studies Departments encouraged my questions and urged me to follow my calling (even though I had no idea where it would lead). If you're interested in a career in ministry, I encourage you to talk to Anna Mercedes.
What skills are important in your field?
Being a pastor requires so many skills!: Volunteer management, administrative skills, pastoral/listening skills, conflict management (peace studies helped me a lot in this area!), public speaking, a passion for on-going education, theological and intellectual rigor, self-awareness, compassion and empathy.
What is the most satisfying/rewarding part of your position?
As a pastor of a congregation, I am privileged to witness and be a part of all the varied stages in a family's life, birth through death. It is a fulfilling job because I am blessed to serve whole family units. It's truly an intergenerational ministry. Part of being a pastor is also being a teacher, which I love. I love getting to teach people, young and old, about the history and traditions of our faith, scripture, and explore with them how we are called to live as Christians in the world.
Being a pastor is also incredibly draining, since there's almost never a time when one is fully "off." We are sometimes expected to be mind-readers, and often we get harshly criticized. We are sometimes the first people call in a crisis, and these moments are both incredibly sacred and also heart-breaking.
What activities/experiences were helpful at CSB/SJU (and elsewhere) in preparation for this career?
My relationship with St. Benedict's Monastery was extremely helpful in preparation for this career. The sisters modeled for me how to live in community, how to be pastorally present, how to keep questioning and challenging our faith. My involvement in CSB Campus Ministry was invaluable. My leadership on PRiSM helped me actively work towards the rights of the queer community within a community of faith such as CSB/SJU. Every single one of my Theology and Peace Studies professors encouraged me to ask good, thoughtful questions, and this was extremely crucial in my discernment out of my church of origin into one that affirmed my call.