After almost fifteen years in formal ministry, one thing has become very clear to Kathryn: You don’t need to know the end to have a start. Who would have guessed that a short conversation on the school bus as a seventeen year old would have been the catalyst for the life poured out hence?
Kathryn Jensen, Associate Pastor at Mill Park Baptist, has enjoyed a heritage of faith through the women of her family, passed down from her grandmother to her mother to herself. Alike Timothy, her sincere faith coupled with her leadership gift, gave her opportunities at a young age. On a usual trip on the school bus, Kathryn declared her interest in “getting back to church” to her friend after she’d experienced teenager-drift from faith.
Two years later, she had started a Bible Study, begun a Young Adult Internship at Crossway and was studying Christian counselling. Life was busy with possibilities and steep learning curves. Kathryn relished the opportunities to grow, through taking risks and having a go. Her church community at Crossway likewise was prepared to fan into flame her leadership gift, appointing her to a staff position in her early twenties. Entrusted with this leadership from a young age has engendered in Kathryn a desire to grow leadership in others.
Her role as Crossway’s Young Adult Small Group Coordinator reflected her passion to see people loved and finding a place to belong. This sense of belonging is more than a positional state. Being in a neighbourhood does not equate to belonging in that community, nor does being in a family necessarily forge a sense of belonging. Belonging is the result of being seen and known by one another. And it is this ministry of reconciliation that is the underpinning of Kathryn’s efforts and prayers.
While on a prayer retreat, God gave Kathryn a memorable vision that began her life in ministry. “I was sitting on a swing with Jesus pushing me from behind towards the Father.” The vision remains with Kathryn as a picture of God’s work of reconciliation. And in her reconciled state, she takes seriously the message being committed to us.
2 Corinthians 5:16-21
So, from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
For Kathryn, the message of reconciliation is evident in every aspect of daily life. In her own family, she is an agent of reconciliation, bridging gaps of broken relationships. She reflects, “In a sense, I was born as a reconciler in my family.” And likewise, she is a reconciler in God’s family. Her role as Care and Connect Pastor sees people being connected meaningfully into the life of the church.
It was also with her heart for reconciliation that Kathryn helped establish Mill Park Community Care(MPCC) in 2013 in partnership with Mill Park Baptist Church. With a growing need for Christian Counselling in the Northern suburbs, Mill Park Community Care is now a thriving professional counselling service for the community. MPCC is entirely self-funded and, six years on, there are second and third generation clients (referred by previous clients) who encounter God’s love in the arena of faith-based, but not faith-biased counselling.
In addition, Kathryn has fanned into flame the vision of others in her church community to create spaces for belonging, empowering those with a dream to establish a weekly community meal for the lonely and hurting, or to establish a conversational English class for the marginalised migrants, or to envision and implement an International Expo to celebrate ethnic diversity. It is those on mission together who show up week after week and continue to serve in this way that is stirring Kathryn’s heart. She calls them ‘Missional Remainers.’ They are people who have discerned that following Jesus for them, means staying put, showing up and being deeply committed to a small geographic place. Missional Remainers are more needed now more than ever. They help create stability and welcome as Melbourne’s suburbs dramatically change, uprooting people, and marginalising many.
From a recent study trip with the BUV Mission Catalyst team, Kathryn visited flourishing communities, where Missional Remainers were willing to take risks for the sake of the community they serve. These Missional Remainers don’t show up on their own terms or in their own timing, but find the shape of their ministry in their community. The future of mission needs Missional Remainers who are deeply connected to place and people. They don’t do this work alone, but are empowered and inspired by the God of creation who became flesh and blood and moved into the neighbourhood in order to reconcile that creation to himself.
When asked what advice she would give to anyone thinking of stepping into ministry, Kathryn offers a great challenge: “The thing you can’t stand in the world is what God is calling you to change.” This should cause us to pause. And ponder.
For Kathryn, it is people who are disconnected. Kathryn is driven to walk alongside the lonely, the broken, the immigrant, those on the margins. This is a feeling that Kathryn has known, from the displacement of her childhood years (7 schools in 13 years!) to the challenges of ministry as a single woman in a world where marriage and family are often in the driving seat. She deeply loves this Jesus who entered the world as ‘other’, leaving behind divine privilege in order to become like those he sought to save. This is what fuels her passion for God’s commitment to reconciliation. This ministry demands of us a commitment to people and a commitment to place where everyone belongs. Everyone has a place. Everyone is loved.