Meet Penny Biddy
By Loretta Fulton
Surrounded by family, friends, and admirers, Penny Biddy took another step in her spiritual journey when she was ordained as a Disciples of Christ minister Sunday Nov. 6.
Biddy and Chesna Riley are co-pastors of Brook Hollow Christian Church, which meets in a leased space in Woodhaven Shopping Center on South 14th Street. For Biddy, it was the latest in a long string of steps on that journey, beginning with volunteering in music and worship ministry when she was in high school. Taking a spiritual journey seriously comes naturally for Biddy, who is a third-generation member of the Disciples of Christ. A grandfather was an elder at Hyde Park Christian Church in Austin and her father was pastor of Central Christian Church in Marble Falls when Biddy was growing up.
“In my family it was pretty much assumed that all Christians participated in the ministries of their local congregations regularly,” she said, “and music was where I saw myself volunteering.”
Now, years later, Biddy is an ordained minister in the church. The ordination service was presided over by the Rev. Heather Reed, the regional connection minister for this area of the Christian Church in the Southwest Region.
In May, Biddy was honored with a reception at the church when she earned a master of divinity degree and a master of arts degree in ancient and Oriental Christianity from Abilene Christian University. She expressed appreciation for everyone who has assisted her in her journey.
“Each different piece of my life, my work, my family, my community, is a blessing I am truly grateful for,” Biddy said. “I appreciate everyone who shares this journey with me, and I am looking forward to seeing what God will do in all of us in the future.”
In the photo at left, Oscar Barnett, 9, receives Communion from Penny Biddy during Biddy’s ordination service Nov. 6 at Brook Hollow Christian Church. The Biddy Family at right consists of Jon and Penny Biddy in the back and Sam, 9, and Lora, 13.
Q&A with Penny Biddy
Q Have you always been a member of a Disciples of Christ congregation or did you grow up in another denomination?
A I was raised in the DOC. My grandfather was an elder at Hyde Park Christian Church in Austin, where my parents got married and my dad began his ministry as the youth pastor there. My dad went on to pastor Central Christian Church in Marble Falls for most of my childhood. So, I’m a third generation member of the Disciples of Christ.
Q When did you first feel the call to ministry?
A I was drawn to music and worship ministry in high school, although I didn’t necessarily see that as a full time call to ministry at the time. In my family, it was pretty much assumed that all Christians participated in the ministries of their local congregations regularly, and music was where I saw myself volunteering. I didn’t recognize a call to other forms of ministry until after I had done part-time music ministry for awhile.
Q Was it an out-of-the-blue experience or was it more gradual? Did you struggle with your response?
A Very gradual! It took me quite a while to put all the pieces together. I would not say that I struggled with my response, but I certainly struggled to recognize a sense of call, even when it seemed to be plain to other people. I think this is a common side effect of growing up in a pastor’s family. I had all these traits and interests that some people could recognize as characteristic of a call to ministry, but I thought that they were just things that everyone did! It took me a long time to understand that those characteristics added up to a specific call to ministry.
Q What practical effect does ordination have at your church? Will your job description change?
A At this time, there will not be any direct impact on my job description or how my congregation operates on a daily basis.
Q What does ordination mean in the Disciples of Christ? Are you entitled to perform any additional sacraments?
A Ordination in the Disciples does not confer any new or special privileges or responsibilities that don’t also come with commissioning (my previous form of credentials). The biggest difference between ordination and commissioning in the Disciples of Christ is that commissioning is viewed as situation-specific. It recognizes a call to a particular ministry context. Ordination is viewed as general. It recognizes that a person is called and equipped for a variety of different ministry contexts and roles which may change over time.
Q What license or certification did you have to be co-pastor before ordination?
A I have been commissioned in the Disciples of Christ since I became the associate pastor at Brook Hollow in 2006.
Q Who performed the ordination rite?
A Rev. Heather Reed, the Regional Connection Minister for this area of the Christian Church in the Southwest Region, will preside over the ordination service. In the DOC, ordination is overseen by the Regional level of the church, so the service is always conducted by a member of the Southwest Region’s ministry staff. Heather is the staff member who specifically oversees ministries to churches in our area, so she knows me, my church, and our ministry well. I’m excited to have her here for the service.
Q You obviously love the academic life. Do you have plans for a doctorate?
A No firm plans at this time. I would definitely love to work towards a doctorate eventually, but I don’t know exactly when or how that will work out.
Q With a husband and young children, plus your graduate studies, you have a lot of responsibilities to juggle. How do you manage?
A Well, everyone is juggling a lot of responsibilities these days, I think! There are a couple of main ways I manage. First of all, I don’t do any of this alone. My husband and I share household responsibilities, and my co-pastor and I share church responsibilities. My congregation is incredibly supportive of my family and other outside responsibilities, and they give me lots of flexibility and help.
I have a terrific network of other parents and friends who all help each other out. Second, I find it helpful to just give up on the idea of “balancing” things. There’s no balance! Instead of trying to give “equal” amounts of time or attention to all my responsibilities, I try to give each thing what it needs at any given time. I also accept that everything will never get done all at once. Sometimes the church needs most of my energy and attention, and sometimes things are pretty quiet there. Some seasons of family life are really busy, and I give more of myself to family and less to work in those times. Some days I’m a better pastor. Some days I’m a better mom. Other times I’m a better wife, or student, or friend, etc. Whatever I’m working on, it’s helpful to focus on progress, not perfection!
Loretta Fulton is editor of Spirit of Abilene
Very nice write-up, Loretta!