Andy Kort and Mihee Kim-Kort are Presbyterian (PCUSA) clergy who live and work in Bloomington, Indiana. Andy is pastor of First Presbyterian Church and currently working on his Doctor of Ministry at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. On any given day he can be found enjoying a solid cup of coffee, running at the Y, or bemoaning the plight of Pittsburgh sports. Mihee is the staff person for UKIRK @ IU - a campus ministry to Indiana University students and spends her days reading and writing snippets on her phone while chasing after their three kids.
Today’s post is an excerpt from Yoked: Stories of a Clergy Couple in Marriage, Family and Ministry, a collection of true stories is written by Mihee and Andy. They share their unique perspective on the joys and challenges of ministry in alternating segments, forming a collective narrative that illuminates the inner workings of a clergy marriage, even as it inspires with heartfelt tales of life in ministry. This excerpt is from a chapter written by Andy, who talks about the two voices—his father’s and his wife’s— that have shaped his own voice in his identity as a preacher and pastor. Enjoy!
Mihee’s voice reminds me of line in the old hymn “Wade in the Water” that speaks to God’s “troubling” the water. I never really understood what that meant, and I’m still not sure I do. But as I think more about it, I have come to imagine it is a reference to God’s active participation in this world. The still, peaceful, and easy waters of this world often invite us to a state of placidness. At the worst, we simply go along with the flow, afraid to deal with all of the challenges that come with making ripples, let alone waves. Perhaps God troubling the water causes us to, or calls us, to the radical work that causes ordinary folks to drop their proverbial nets and follow a certain rabbi.
Mihee’s prophetic voice has troubled the waters of what, I am sure, could have been, and at times still might be, a glassy-lake life and ministry. As we took classes like “Cultural Hermeneutics” together and other classes in theology, she challenged me in a way that Calvin, Barth, or Augustine could not. I was suddenly engaged in, found myself thinking about, and talking about, issues that as a white middle-class suburban American male I had not had to wrestle with before. I looked at church, my preaching, my use of words, my relations with others, and the larger world in way that was new to me.
I began to think about the power and the impact of one’s voice. As she began serving her churches as an Associate Pastor, I really began to think about even the little comments we make to each other. This is because she would share with me some of what others have said to her, comments literally about her voice—“talk louder and use the mic!”—the well-intentioned, but condescending, comments about how young and cute she looked in her big black robe while leading worship—“just like my granddaughter!” After we had been married for a few years she was asked the question that is no-one’s business: “When are you going to have kids?” I’ve had my fair share of stupid comments about my beard or haircut or tie, but I can let those roll off after a few minutes of shaking my head. But when it happens to Mihee, something within me stirs to make sure that I am never that insensitive to another. I’m not sure I’d be aware of these things, or give them much thought, if I was not married to a member of the clergy.
Mihee’s voice troubled the waters and as a result re-shaped my still developing voice. I’m not going to lie and say it was, or is, an easy process. I saw things in myself and I listened to things about her life that are hard. But as these conversations, fights, and experiences played out I have come to see that she has influenced me in ways that my dad, or anyone else for that matter, could not.
She has taught me that my voice is useless—a clanging gong or a noisy cymbal—if I don’t back it up with action. If I don’t “practice what I preach,” as they say, then what good does it do? Mostly she has challenged me to be more courageous. She has challenged me to live with conviction. She has taught me how to remain faithful (or at least try to) in the midst of hardship and the confusion that comes with asking “How long O Lord?” …She has gently pulled, pushed, and kicked me out of my zone of comfort and familiarity.
But as I continue to grow in life the more I can see that while I am influenced by, and who I am because of, many people, I am still God’s unique creation—with my own voice.
Be sure to check out Yoked: Stories of a Clergy Couple in Marriage, Family and Ministry by Andy Kort and Mihee Kim-Kort.
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