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A Minister to Ministers, by Malu Fairley
by Malu Fairley
I have often stated that it took me three years to say Y E S to God while at Candler School of Theology. Since as early as I can remember I have had a great love affair with God, the Divine realm and God’s creation. Yet, I have never been real “churched”— never memorized scripture or had a major conversion moment.
I grew up with a critical awareness of the world in a political, inclusive, queer activist household of a cultural anthropologist who focused on African/African Disaporic Studies — including the historic to modern day oppression and pain caused by Christians. I never imagined myself in ministry.
Yet, at 24 I found myself wrestling with a fierce urge to go to seminary. At opening convocation God gently whispered to me, “Who ministers to the ministers?” “ NOT ME! ... OK, God I will…BUT I will NOT be ordained. I will get my PhD and teach within a graduate department of religion.” (Notice I did not say seminary or school of theology.)
As is often the case, God had other hopes for me. During my final semester, at the urging of a few professors, I took my first unit of CPE ministering at Metro State Maximum Security Women’s Prison. It was the most intense and difficult experience of my life. I loved it. It was in CPE that I witnessed the strands of my story coming together as I offered spiritual support to suffering women who struggled with daily life. I supported them in maintaining dignity, hope, identity, purpose and community as incarcerated persons, many of whom were imprisoned long before their sentencing. I developed greater awareness of and compassion for myself. I learned how to be present to the fullness of a person inviting them to co-create healing space such that they experienced being heard, seen, accepted and cared for. I continued CPE to complete one and then another yearlong residency ministering in Level 1 trauma hospitals. Fast-forward four years and I am an ordained board certified chaplain and supervisory education candidate who serves as the director of spiritual care and education for the Palliative Care and Hospice Network. I am ministering to the ministers each day. I answer my call equipping Palliative Care providers to recognize and at times meet the basic spiritual needs of the patients we serve. I answer my call educating chaplain interns through their CPE journey as they offer spiritual and emotional support to patients, family and staff.
Malu Fairley earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy at Spelman College in Atlanta and a masters in divinity with a certificate in Women in Theology and Ministry at Candler School of Theology of Emory University. During her first-year residency at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta she focused on serving persons dealing with high acuity trauma and crisis. She relocated to Charlotte, N.C., in 2010 and completed a second year residency at Carolinas Medical Center Main, with the intention of continuing into the Supervisory Education Program. In 2011 she was ordained by Wedgewood Church and endorsed by the Alliance of Baptists. In the fall of 2012 Malu became a Supervisory Educate Candidate and plans to complete her training in the fall of this year. She is the mother of a vivacious 10-year-old son. She regularly leads worship at Wedgewood and is active in community organizing for LGBTQIA persons in Charlotte.