“Doing”: Pastoral Counseling with Jaye Peabody

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By Jaye Peabody
“McAfee affirmed me as a woman, an African American, and a preacher. McAfee encouraged me to ask tough questions and think outside the box. It is because of McAfee I am able to provide the same affirmation, abiding love and safety at Covenant Counseling Center.” -Jaye Peabody, Executive Director at Covenant Counseling

My name is Jaye Peabody. I am a 2010 dual degree graduate from McAfee School of Theology and the College of Continuing and Professional Studies at Mercer University. I received my M.Div. as well as my M.S. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. I currently work as the Executive Director at Covenant Counseling and Family Resources in Snellville, Georgia. It is with a gracious and humble heart that I write to tell you a piece of my life's journey and how McAfee played such an important part.

I am confident that my Pastoral Counseling training at McAfee prepared me for the challenges I face today. On any given day, I manage the programs, facilitate the day-to-day operations, coordinate the support staff, oversee the financial operations, as well as counsel with clergy, children, and families at Covenant Counseling. No one day is the same and I am constantly pouring myself into this magnanimous work. I can say with pride that the person I am today, confident and capable to handle the challenges life brings, is in direct correlation with the impact McAfee had on my life.

So many words come to mind when I think of my McAfee: intellectual, affirming, prestigious. Yet the word I feel as if God continuously whispered in my ear while there was TIME. At first I thought it was because it took me a lot of “time” to complete the program. As a mom of four, who worked full time, it took me six years. But it's less about the time I spent at McAfee and more about but the time McAfee spent on me.

For example, there was the “time” I found my preaching voice in the class of Dr. Peter Rhea Jones. He and others affirmed me not only as a woman in ministry but as an African American preacher. Or about the “time” my old church went through a horrible split. Everyone except me and one other colleague was fired, sat down, or was put on leave. I had only been ordained a year. Dr. Slater saw me one day and took the time to sit me down and simply say “How are you?” That simple gesture reminded me I was not alone on this journey.

I think about the time I had to call Dr. Garber and tell him I could not make my Hebrew midterm because my baby daughter's asthma had gotten so bad I was on the way to the emergency room. I just knew he would think it was an excuse to get out of my exam. Yet when I was in the emergency room I felt a sense of peace come over me even as I held my daughter watching her struggle. I later found out that Dr. Garber took the “time” to lift me and my daughter up in prayer during chapel…around the same time I was at the ER…and my McAfee family prayed for my little girl.

Or the “time” Dr. Denise Massey unknowingly affirmed and encouraged me to stay the course when she talked about the difficulties and the rewards of balancing being a mom, wife, minister and student.

Then there was Dr. Allen who had enough courage to pull me aside, tell me my writing was awful BUT there has to be a reason because he thought I was quite intelligent. (After taking Church History you will understand why that compliment meant so much). Because he took the “time” to talk to me about possible learning disabilities, I learned I had adult ADHD. For years I had suffered with my mind moving faster than my body. And though I have three master degrees, I cannot describe how difficult it was before my diagnosis. After learning how to treat ADHD, writing and organization became so much easier that I am no longer afraid to pursue my doctorate.

I can go on and on about the amount of “time” the McAfee community has poured into me from the professors, to the staff and to the students (Dr. Michelle Garber Brooks was my lifeline at this school). But the most important “time” of all was when I learned that if you cannot show God's love, you cannot teach God's love. And I am in the business of teaching God's love.

It was at McAfee that I learned how to see, experience, embrace, and accept God's love for my life. It took “time” to develop my pastoral authority, my confidence, and the optimization of my intellectual ability. I am sure there are a lot of good seminaries out there, but I know of no other place where professors, staff, alumni, and students take the “time” to help a minister (especially like me) grow.

If I could, I would like to leave you with a children's story I often share with my own kids:

Once upon a time, there was an island where all the attributes lived: Happiness, Sadness, Knowledge, and all of the others, including Love. One day it was announced to the feelings that the island would sink, so all constructed boats and left. Except for Love.

Love was the only one who stayed. Love wanted to hold out until the last possible moment.
When the island had almost sunk, Love decided to ask for help.

Richness was passing by Love in a grand boat. Love said, “Richness, can you take me with you?”

Richness answered, “No, I can't. There is a lot of gold and silver in my boat. There is no place here for you.”

Love decided to ask Vanity who was also passing by in a beautiful vessel. “Vanity, please help me!”

“I can't help you, Love. You are all wet and might damage my boat,” Vanity answered.
Sadness was close by so Love asked, “Sadness, let me go with you.”

“Oh . . . Love, I am so sad that I need to be by myself!”
Happiness passed by Love, too, but she was so happy that she did not even hear when Love called her.
Suddenly, there was a voice, “Come, Love, I will take you.” It was an elder. So blessed and overjoyed, Love even forgot to ask the elder where they were going. When they arrived at dry land, the elder went her own way. Realizing how much was owed the elder,

Love asked Knowledge, another elder, “Who helped me?”

“It was Time,” Knowledge answered.

“Time?” asked Love. “But why did Time help me?”

Knowledge smiled with deep wisdom and answered, “Because only Time is capable of understanding how valuable Love is.”