An Interview with Teri Ditslear; Wife, Mother, Pastor and “Fire-Starter”
As soon as I read the article in my local newspaper, I knew I had to get in touch with her. You see, she and I are not so different.
Both Teri and I took a while to figure out what it is we are supposed to be doing.
Both Teri and I took a while to find our roots in faith.
And now, both Teri and I continue to chase God, though in very different ways.
So when I read about Teri, her church and the 111 Club (1 hour, 1 question, 1 beer), in a recent newspaper article, I wanted to know more.
I felt the need to connect, to understand this woman and her mission. I wanted to gain insight on what she thinks, how she acts, and the ways in which God is working in her life.
Who is the woman I’m speaking of? Teri Ditslear, wife to Noblesville Mayor John Distlear, mother and grandmother to an entire brood of kiddos, and pastor of the Roots of Life Community, a congregation under development of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA).
So with the help of the Internet, we connected.
I asked if I could interview her for my blog.
She said yes.
Teri Ditslear didn’t start out her adult life as a pastor, though the stirring to be one started early. “Even in high school, I thought I would make a good pastor, people would often come to me to talk about their problems,” says Teri, “but I had a recording in my head, ‘You’re a woman, you’re not smart enough, you’re not good enough’.” For years, the recording won out over truth.
Oh wow, yes, I am familiar with that recording. Stupid, stupid recording.
It wasn’t until she was in her forties that she began to listen to the nudges on her heart. She vividly recalls the moment she understood what she had to do, that she was destined to be a pastor. “I cried,” says Teri, “It was like a 50 pound weight off of my shoulders, I just knew this is who I’m supposed to be.”
Now that she is exactly where she’s meant to be, Teri is doing exactly what she’s always wanted to do: Help people experience God. Through her church, her service in the community, and now through the 111 Club.
If only…if only I too, could help people experience God (it is my goal for my book). What a honor that would be!
Innovative Ways to Reach the People
In Teri’s eyes, church is all about hospitality. Not in a coffee and doughnuts way, but in the drawing together of broken people. The Roots of Life is about community. Accepting all who come, despite their differences, “If we can be in the same space and worship the same God, then we all become disciples.”
“I want people to experience God, it’s my #1 priority,” says Teri. Therefore, children are invited to stay in the sanctuary, sermons are interactive, and the worship atmosphere is designed to be warm and welcoming with the underlying understanding that God is in everyone and everything.
Teri also extends the opportunity to experience God outside of worship, through service, bible studies and her discussion group, the 111 Club, which began around 10 months ago. Meeting at Syd’s Bar and Grill every Tuesday evening, the group discusses 1 interesting (and often controversial) question about life and faith over a beer. It’s all about connecting through conversation.
“I think people are craving community and sometimes we just find it in a different place,” says Teri, “Sometimes the staff or others in the bar join in on our discussions.”
Yes, in this busy world, I too, crave community. Don’t we all?
On Drawing Closer to God
Finally, I ask the question I find burning in my heart: How can we, those of us who are living lives and seeking to draw closer to God, find Him in this chaotic, divisive and often self-serving world?
Teri first suggests a clearing of the mind with a breath prayer. Breath Prayers can help de-clutter the mind. Simply take 7 breaths, pausing and holding in between. Doing so will clear the mind of distraction and help one focus on God.
And when struggling-to understand, to forgive, to act or believe-ask God for help through the hard places. Ask and then be patient as He takes you through the process to peace.
Lastly Teri reminds us that one cannot have peace without risk.
Peace without risk; what does she mean by this?
People generally dislike taking risks. But explains Teri, if we cannot open ourselves up and be vulnerable before God and others, we will never truly find peace. We must take chances in being who we are and in living out our faith.