Rev. Tyler Lindsey (MDiv, ‘21) had been serving Brier Creek Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Bremen, Kentucky, for only six months when their community was struck by devastating tornadoes. Multiple members of his congregation lost their homes. The parsonage where Rev. Lindsey lived with his wife, Heather, was destroyed. Two beloved church members were killed.
“One of the things that’s been hard to work through is being a minister and a victim at the same time,” Rev. Lindsey said. “How do you do that? In one moment I wanted to be present for those that were suffering, but at the same time I was suffering and not really there, not really present.”
“When I first started serving my church, my congregation recognized that I was a young minister really just starting out in full-time ministry. Heather and I had just moved into the parsonage about six months before the tornado. And from the get-go, my congregation said, ‘We understand that you’ve got a lot of things to learn and we’re happy to nurture and support you as you learn them.’ They had no idea what was coming our way, but they have done an incredible job. The congregation has been a pillar in my life for this moment.”
The congregation checked on Rev. Lindsey, made sure he was eating, helped him pack up the belongings he could salvage from the parsonage.
“Heather and I could have stood there in the driveway for two weeks and not done a thing because we were lost. We didn’t know what to do.”
Rev. Lindsey added, “I’ve been grateful to my congregation for seeing my humanity. I think that a lot of times with ministers, those in leadership in the church, our humanity can be lost–we’re expected to function just fine when things like this happen. But my congregation recognizes that I am a human being and that I’ve been through an awful traumatic experience and that I’m not going to function near normal for a while. My congregation has really shown themselves to be, in my mind, angels. Many of them said, ‘This is what we do for family.’
“I would never say that God did this, that God allowed this storm to happen. I don’t believe that one bit. But I would say that God can take the chaos that has happened and make something of it. I’d prefer to never go through this again. I hope that nobody ever goes through this again, but I can’t really change the fact that it’s happened, and so what can I do other than take what I’ve gained and learned and apply it? It gives me an opportunity to be even more open in ministry. To be more understanding, more empathetic.”
There have been plenty of stories in the news about decreasing church attendance after the Covid-19 pandemic, but what we at MTS know, too, is that there are plenty more stories like Rev. Lindsey’s, plenty of places where pastors, churches, and people of faith are family to one another through all of the storms that life sends our way.
When Rev. Lindsey arrived at MTS, he was following in the footsteps of his grandfather, Rev. Donald Cordell Smith, who also graduated from Bethel University and Memphis Theological Seminary before going on to serve as a Cumberland Presbyterian Pastor.
Rev. Lindsey said, “My grandfather would always say, ‘I expected to go into the seminary knowing A, B, C and come out knowing A, B, C.’ But he always said he actually came out knowing A, B, and D. He always held a really high view of the seminary just because it did challenge him in many ways to look at things differently.”
We recently welcomed Rev. Lindsey back to campus to preach at one of our weekly chapel services. In his sermon on Luke 17: 5-10, Rev. Lindsey said, “When I was standing in the scattered wreckage of what was my home, picking up the pieces of what little I had left, all of the people who were simply there, who said to me, we are just doing what we ought to, it may have felt like the ordinary work expected of them, but to me they were moving mountains and telling mulberry trees to uproot themselves. Just because it is the ordinary work expected of us doesn’t mean it’s not extraordinary.”
Rev. Lindsey said, “It was my journey through Memphis Theological Seminary that instilled within me a deep appreciation for the mysteries of our faith. Alongside many of my peers, my eyes were opened to a God who is bigger than I could have ever imagined.”
Rev. Lindsey added, “From that knowledge springs hope, and that hope carried me through one of the most difficult moments in my life. A hope that God’s Kindom is still being realized even when my world is scattered in pieces all around me.”