Alum Publishes Memoir About her Time as UCC Pastor
Rev. Elaine Greensmith Jordan (MDiv 1984) recently published her memoir, Mrs. Ogg Played the Harp: Memories of Church and Love in the High Desert, which focuses on the five years she spent as a woman pastor in Arizona. Her book “tells the touching and funny story of an untested woman minister who ventures to the high country of northern Arizona where she accepts a pulpit in a small UCC church in a country club. She confronts her husband’s betrayal, copes with troublesome Christian beliefs, and finds God among cactus, conservatives, and a compelling landscape.”
Being the first woman minister called to this small church was a daunting challenge for someone who was accustomed to the culturally diverse and progressive nature of the urban landscape of Southern California. Transitioning from the urban setting of San Diego to a rural ranch community provided many challenges. One of the saving graces for her was the church’s organist, Mrs. Ogg, who played a golden harp on special occasions. Rev. Greensmith Jordan was able to “lean upon [Mrs. Ogg’s] beautiful music in so many ways.”
Mrs Ogg Played the Harp tells the story of a woman, armed with a sense of humor, creates a successful ministry in a rural Arizona church even though the congregation was suspicious of a female minister from California who practiced yoga and had progressive ideas about ministry. Rev. Greensmith Jordan was not a radical feminist, but readers of her book will find her to be a courageous woman for stepping into this role and moving gracefully through the challenges she faced personally and professionally during her ministry.
Prior to her call to ministry, Rev. Greensmith Jordan was an English teacher who longed to be a writer. Finally, during her retirement from ministry, she began a writing career and published numerous essays about her life and family. Her awards include Nonfiction Prizes from the Preservation Foundation, the Florida State Writing Competition, Inland Empire Writers Contest, and the Arizona Authors Contest. Her essays have appeared in South Loop Review, Passages, AARP Bulletin, New Works Review, The Georgetown Review and other journals.
During a recent interview, Rev. Greensmith Jordan spoke of her affection for the PSR campus, the PSR/GTU community, and Berkeley. The Berkeley Repertory Theater was a second home to her, she said. . One of her frustrations was that fellow students were unwilling to venture ‘off the hill’ with her to explore the vast cultural landscape in the Bay Area. “To be a good minister, you really have to have an open view of all the culture beyond the doors of a church.”
Rev. Greensmith Jordan hopes that PSR will continue to offer challenges to students with cutting edge thinking and teaching. Seminarians ought to be exposed to a wide range of subjects to prepare them for their ministries, she said. A “solid humanities education” is something she hopes for PSR’s future; including exposure to great literature of many cultures to better inform their pastoral and ministerial skills. She would enjoy returning to “Holy Hill” for an opportunity to share her perspective on ministry and a chance to tell the story of the ‘wild west’ of northern Arizona.