Rev. Jim Magaw
Office Hours TWF, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. (please phone first or make appointment)
“We do not think ourselves into a new way of living as much as we live ourselves into new ways of thinking,” Richard Rohr said. Similarly, my path of ministerial formation has been one of living my way into ministry, rather than thinking my way in. To be sure, a great deal of thinking has gone into my preparation and training, but it has been the actual, lived experience of ministry that has made me a minister.
A couple of years ago, I had a moment of realization that I had, in fact, become a minister. It happened while I was offering a prayer during a worship service at my internship congregation. I looked out at these people—people with whom I had worked in committee meetings, in small groups, in religious education classes, in pastoral conversations, in acts of prophetic witness—and I realized that I loved them.
My sense of having become a minister was not handed down from on high. It wasn’t as if I’d won some kind of wrestling match and, as a result, had been awarded ministerial authority or ministerial identity. It was all about the fact that I had worked with these people in challenging times and in moments of great joy, and I had come to love them.
And of course it’s about love. My journey has been about love from day one. Ministry is my answer to the question posed by Mary Oliver in her poem “Spring”: “There is only one question: how to love this world.”
Ministry is how I have chosen to love this world. Inviting others to share this ministry is how I hope to help others answer this question for themselves.
I grew up in several small towns in Ohio during the 1960s and 1970s. As a United Methodist preacher’s kid, I felt lifted up and surrounded by a loving community that did its earnest best to live up to the values of mutuality expressed in one of my favorite hymns, “Blest Be the Tie that Binds”: “We share our mutual woes, our mutual burdens bear/And often for each other flows the sympathizing tear.”
All of the members of my immediate family are in helping professions of one kind or another: my mother as a school teacher, my father as a minister and my sister as executive director of a non-profit agency. I have learned valuable lessons from their examples.
I love music and poetry. I have sung and played various stringed instruments since I was about 12 years old, and I started writing poetry at age seven. Even when things have been insanely busy for me (maybe especially when things have been insanely busy), I have found some time to make music and to engage with poetry.
Perhaps the most transformational aspect of my life has been my experience becoming a parent. Since my daughter’s birth nine years ago, I have been a more grateful and awe-struck person than I imagined I could be. Parenthood for me has acted as a catalyst for further reflection and action on the things that I value most.
I have aspired to be a Unitarian Universalist minister serving in a parish setting, and I am grateful and excited to be Sunnyhill’s settled minister. At this moment, I cannot imagine anything I would rather do. My call to ministry has brought me many gifts—new friends, new wisdom, new challenges and, perhaps most especially, a renewed sense of focus and gratitude. Even the difficult aspects of ministry seem like gifts to me now.