We all have a calling
The Rev. Janet Crissinger-Clark is known by her friends and family as being a notorious multi-tasker.
On Oct. 4, 2009, she added one more thing to her ‘to do’ list. On that World Communion Sunday, she preached her first sermon at the First Presbyterian Church in Blue Earth.
“It was a great way to get started,” recalls Crissinger-Clark of that day.
Serving part time at the local church, Crissinger-Clark will travel from her home in St. James to Blue Earth two to three times weekly. On her days in Blue Earth, she will not only provide the Sunday sermon, but this multi-tasker will also be conducting an after school youth program every Wednesday, direct rehearsals of the church choir, as well as minister to the needs of the congregation.
A native of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, she is a graduate of Kennedy High School and a 1980 graduate of Simpson College at Indianola, Iowa where she earned a degree in religion and philosophy. She then attended the United Theological Seminary in the Twin Cities.
While she was studying at the seminary, she met her future husband, Don, who has served in St. James as the Presbyterian minister since 1985. The couple have made their home there ever since and are the parents of two daughters, Susannah, who will graduate from Luther College in May and Victoria, a budding journalist, who will graduate from high school this June.
In the intervening years, Crissinger-Clark has been involved in many activities and occupations. She has a lengthy resume which includes being a parent educator for Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE), a parish associate, interim campus pastor at Mankato State University (prior to its name change), supply pastor at Mountain Lake as well as an interim associate at Jackson. From 2001-2006, she worked two days per week as a Mayo Clinic chaplain in Rochester.
Since the age of 19, she has also served as a choir director and presently is still teaching piano lessons to 21 pupils in the St. James area.
“I intended to major in music when I entered college,” she says. “I even was an opera coach at the Des Moines Metro Opera when I was a college student, but I don’t have the best voice. Maybe that’s a good metaphor for ministry…one may not have the best voice, but by having faith we can become a voice for God. One thing is for sure, when I’m in Heaven I’m going to have a great voice!”
Crissinger-Clark says God uses us where we are at the present moment to do ministry. This has been the story of her life.
“Now that I am in Blue Earth, I’m really excited to be in parish ministry,” she says enthusiastically. “But there was a time I wanted to be a chaplain. I felt a special calling to this type of ministry. For me, it was a meaningful way to connect with people. For five years I did this ministry in Rochester. When people are ill, it’s really a touchstone experience for them with God. People are really willing to speak about their spirituality at this time. People are amazingly resilient because when they hit rock bottom they still are able to make sense of life. Because of these experiences and others I have had, I remain hopeful of the human condition and its resiliency.”
When she has not been busy multi-tasking or exploring a different career avenue, the new minister at the First Presbyterian Church enjoys reading.
“If I had the time and when I do, I read a lot of history,” she confesses. “Otherwise, my hobby is basically my kids. They are involved in so much and I have always wanted to be a part of that. Also, for 22 years I served as the musical director for the high school Fall musical at St. James. It’s a thrill to see these kids come back with their memories. I also like to cook. If the refrigerator is full, we’re good to go.”
The call to come to Blue Earth came at the right time in her life, she says.
“I was doing pulpit supply (filling in at a church) in June when I learned of the opening in Blue Earth due to Bob Maharry’s departure,” explains Crissinger-Clark. After thinking about the vacancy, discussing it with her family and praying about it, she applied for the part time position. By the end of July, she visited the local church and was interviewed by some of its members.
“When I came here for the interview and saw the church school program, it was the bulletin boards that convinced me this is where I was meant to be,”she says.
“I have never seen such a force as the passion for education and mission as I have seen in the people here,” she says. “They are deeply devoted. Not only did they take the search project for a new pastor seriously, but there is a lot of talent and hope in everything they do.”
At a strategic planning session in January, she met with church members and together they discussed how to reach people through mission and how to meet the needs of others in the community. With just 65 confirmed members comprising the church, she says the consensus was to continue reaching out to the community and to reach children.
“We have a mission in this community,” says Crissinger-Clark, “whether it is to grow in membership numbers or to grow spiritually with the members we have.”
She says her personal mission is to equip the Saints, the people of the church, to do what they do best.
“What I love best about ministry is being able to equip or empower people to respond to God’s call,” she says. “I want to help the congregation to be faithful witnesses to claim the gifts they already possess and to act on their impulses from within to serve others. We all have a calling.”
Crissinger-Clark says her best calling of all is being a mom.
“I was fortunate to have my daughters with me much of my professional life,” she says. “I have had the time of my life with my kids, so now I am not looking forward to an ’empty nest’. But, God uses us where we are at the present moment to do ministry. I guess it is time for me to be able to put to use what I have put in parentheses for years.”
With a feeling of excitement and joy, Crissinger-Clark says she is working and discovering resources of who she is. She is letting God take her as she is in this latest journey.
“In this journey, we pray, we work and we worship together,” she says. “The seeds of mission are grown into us. We may not know the outcome, but God does.”