Meet Barrie Rose Bliss (Again!)
Several weeks ago, I had the great joy of announcing to the parish the hiring of Ms. Barrie Rose Bliss as our next Director of Children, Teens and Family Ministries. Over the last several years many of you have gotten to know Barrie through her work as a youth ministry volunteer and then as the Redeemer's Youth Minister.
Now, as our new Director of Children, Teens and Youth Ministry, Barrie and I sat down a couple of weeks ago for an informal interview of sorts so that we might take the time to introduce (re-introduce) her to the Redeemer. Barrie brings with her many years of volunteer and professional ministry experience along with several ministry specific undergraduate and graduate level degrees. Most of all she brings a thoughtful, kind, insightful, and joyful spirit to her ministry.
Barrie, when and where did ministry begin for you as a vocation?
I was seventeen years old, and I had to make a hard decision of whether to pursue dance or give my life to be part of the church. I was a very serious ballet dancer as a young person, but also desired to be deeply involved in my parish youth group. Dance demanded all my attention, passion, and focus, so I decided to quit dance in order to have more room in my life to pursue what my soul felt called to do. In my times of private and public prayer as well as my study of scripture, I felt a strong pull to serve in the church. Ministry as a vocation really arrived in a deep spiritual experience when I was 18 that overwhelmed me and convinced me to pursue a vocation in ministry.
Could you tell us a little bit about the Church of God, Cleveland, Tennessee and how it shaped your understanding of ministry among young people?
The Youth Pastor of my church had a passion for deepening discipleship among members of our youth group. This meant encouraging us to practice or devote ourselves to prayer, worship, scripture, and outreach. Through my participation in this intensive discipleship program, I led a small group of teens as a teen myself. This all took place within a Pentecostal Christian denomination known as the Church of God which was headquartered in Cleveland, Tennessee. After my undergraduate work at the Moody Bible Institute, I returned to Cleveland, Tennessee to help lead and guide our 200 youth and 200 college student strong discipleship program.
What was it like being a church leader at such a young age?
I wasn’t so much seeking leadership opportunities as leading was part of the natural outflow of my deepening life of faith. It was also sobering! Understanding that I was responsible for the spiritual formation of these other teens who were nearly the same age as I or nearly my age! It was a humbling experience to have that much impact on others; this led me to consider deep questions about being authentic, open and vulnerable with my peers while leading and guiding.
What led you to study Biblical Languages at the Moody Bible Institute?
I began studying at Lee University (Where Faye Bodley-Dangelo went to college!) in Cleveland, Tennessee, but I found myself having expanding notions of scripture, ministry and my call as a minister. So I found Moody Bible Institute which provided me a very serious educational and discernment opportunity. I felt deeply called to go there, and I knew it would both challenge me and expand my horizons. Biblical Language studies opened a deeper window into the life of Jesus and the text of scripture as a whole. There are things about the Bible which really benefit one’s study when one can read the text in its original language.
How did you first come across the Episcopal Church? What attracted you to this new denomination?
Throughout my time of discernment, my notions of God, the Church and ministry began to collapse under the weight of my new understandings of scripture. I began to explore other Christian denominations to help me find a place more hospitable. The Episcopal Church grounded me in history and tradition while welcoming my whole being with all of my doubts and questions; it also gave me a deep sense of belonging. I eventually walked into St. Francis’ Episcopal Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee and immediately felt at home and welcomed.
Could you tell us a little about your graduate work at Boston College? How has it shaped your spiritual life and your vocation as a youth minister and now director?
I studied historical theology at Boston College beginning in the fall of 2017. Boston College provided me with an educational context that showed me that deep theological thinking and “on the ground” ministry could be united. Our hearts and heads are not divided into separate things. Boston College helped me integrate my sense of vocational call with my desire for theological investigation in a way that I had never experienced.
Do you have further professional goals in academia?
Professionally, I am applying to pursue a PhD program in clinical depth psychology. Clinical depth psychology addresses the psyche, but it does so in a way that integrates history, theology, spirituality and meaning into a holistic space for healing and wholeness. In the long term, I would like to pursue further work into the intersection of spirituality and psychology.
What excites you most about this new position, and how would you like to see your ministries develop here?
I’m really excited to get to know, connect and love the families at the Redeemer. I’m also excited about bringing all of my ministerial, personal, spiritual and academic experience into my ministry. I’m excited to creatively address the many issues of children’s and teens’ ministry and at the same time take part in this strong and well-grounded program. This is my first full ministry leadership position as a director. As such, I am looking forward to developing experiences and spaces where families can truly and deeply connect with one another.