By Brittany Riddle
When I first heard about the CBF Fellows program, I was just a few months into my first full-time ministry position and trying to navigate all of the transitions that come with ending formal schooling and beginning a first full-time job. I had recently moved to a new community where I didn’t know anyone. I was serving in a large church and was just beginning to build relationships there.
I didn’t know what to expect as I drove the eight hours to Atlanta for our first Fellows gathering, but as an introvert, I was a little apprehensive about the unknowns of the program. Would I find my place with this group of 24 other ministers from around the country? Could we possibly become friends after just a week together?
Did I have time to commit to this program when I was trying to balance so many other new things in my life?
Though things were going well in my new church, I was feeling some of the loneliness and isolation that many new ministers feel, so I knew I couldn’t turn down such a wonderful opportunity for education, coaching, and community simply because of a few “what-ifs” rolling around in my mind.
As our time together began, I quickly discovered that the answer to all of my questions was “YES.” Each of the CBF Fellows came to the program with many of the same anxieties and concerns as I did. But from the moment we first sat down with each other we realized that though we were serving in different roles and ministry settings, we were all asking similar questions, facing similar issues, and dealing with similar insecurities.
We each found our place in the large group, in small groups, and sharing stories around meals. We were able to be ourselves with each other. We shared experiences in a way that let each of us know that we were not alone on the journey.
Today, a year and a half later, we have gathered as a group a few times, but the in-between times continue to be meaningful as well. We regularly call each other to ask for resources and advice. We keep in touch on Facebook on an almost daily basis as we share the challenges and joys of being young ministers trying to balance ministry, family, and our personal lives.
We test out our ministry ideas with each other and receive suggestions and encouragement about how to handle difficult situations. We share funny and lighthearted stories as well as sacred and painful moments. We lean on each other when times are tough, and trust each other to hold our conversations in confidence.
I feel like I have known many of the other Fellows for much longer than I have. When we gather in person, it’s like a big reunion where we can pick up right where we left off the last time we saw each other. This community has been invaluable as I have learned what it means for me to be a minister.
I have learned what it feels like to be supported by friends and colleagues who have my best interest at heart. I imagine that we will stay in touch and continue to gather together at meetings and conferences long after our time as CBF Fellows has formally ended. I am deeply grateful for this community of friends and thankful for the journeys we continue to share together.
Brittany Riddle is Minister to Adults at Vinton Baptist Church in Vinton, Virginia. A CBF Fellow, Riddle is an active blogger for Baptist Women in Ministry. This post is part of a series on the CBF Fellows program.