We asked the Rev. Margaret Fox, nominee for the Associate Pastor for Adult Ministries at Westminster, a few questions to get to know her better.
The APNC has described your faith story as unique. Would you be willing to share some of it?
I didn’t grow up in the church. My first exposure to religion came the summer before my senior year of college, when I fell in love with stained glass windows while on a research trip to France. 13th-century Gothic cathedrals tell the stories of scripture in comic-book form–each panel a scene from a biblical story. I learned to identify the characters through their iconography—Peter’s keys, Moses with horns, the virgin Mary dressed in blue. I was hooked. Back in the states, I started reading scripture, visiting churches, and taking as many religion classes as I could.
It took me some time to realize that this fascination with religion was not just academic interest but a stirring of faith and a call to ministry—and, like Jonah, I responded by running in the opposite direction. While a first-semester law student (yes, I made it pretty far into the belly of the whale), a classmate who had grown up as a Lutheran pastor’s kid invited me to look around for churches. We landed at First Presbyterian Church of New Haven, where I found a progressive congregation with strong biblical preaching and a commitment to the community. On the second Sunday of Advent, I was baptized, and became not just a curious onlooker but a member of God’s family. The story I was so interested in became my story, too. In the context of community, what had been fascination transformed into faith.
At that time, the PCUSA was not yet open to ordaining LGBT ministers, but my pastors encouraged me to hang on. Sure enough, that very summer, the ordination standards changed. Thanks to the hard work and advocacy of churches across the country, including Westminster, the way was now clear for me to enter the process. I finished a joint JD/MDiv, then a hospital chaplain residency in Louisville, Kentucky. A year later, I was ordained, and my career in congregational ministry began.
Westminster’s mission says we are a telling presence in Minneapolis. What excites you about joining in that mission?
I’m not going to lie—your stained glass windows are a big draw! But so are the clear glass walls of the new building—opening the life of the congregation out onto the city, and vice versa. There’s a strong connection, at Westminster, between the story of God and the life of the community, the call to faith and the call to justice, the work of the church and the welfare of the city. It’s thrilling to imagine being at that point of intersection.
The other major draw is the chance to serve as part of a robust and vibrant staff team. I tend to be at my best when I’m part of a group—the Sea Scouts in high school, women’s rugby in college, my diverse, beloved cohort of fellow chaplain residents. My two solo pastorates have given me invaluable experience in very different contexts, but I’m really excited at the prospect of serving as part of such a capable, committed team. I’m looking forward to collaborating with colleagues and learning from Tim and Meghan’s leadership, and I’ve been a Matt Skinner fan ever since I started listening to the “Working Preacher” podcast.
What ideas do you have for Adult Ministries at Westminster?
Westminster strikes me as incredibly strong on education at points of intersection: faith and social justice; faith and public life; faith and anti-racism; Christian faith and other faiths; faith, music, and the arts. Working alongside my colleagues and the adult education committee, I would look to expand and deepen these interfaith, intercultural, and multi-disciplinary learning opportunities that make Westminster such a rich and vibrant place.
At the same time, all of this intersectionality creates a real opportunity. Because of its many programs and partnerships, people come to Westminster who might otherwise have no reason to set foot in a church. This is a place where my own experience as an adult convert may be of some use. When you come to church without prior exposure, there’s a lot that can feel confusing or even intimidating. What’s happening during the worship service? What does communion mean? Do I believe the “right things” to belong here? How do I pray out loud? How do I pray at all?
In addition to learning about “faith and…”, there’s also a real need for opportunities simply to learn about faith itself. And from conversations I’ve had with people who did grow up in the church, this may be true of cradle Christians as well as newcomers. We’re all lifelong students in the school of faith. My hope for my work at Westminster would be to develop opportunities for people to learn and grow in faith in contexts that are open and nonjudgmental.