Yes. You read it correctly. I, Maria Teresa Jordan, am now an ordained minister.
My path to ministry may be a bit atypical, as much as life seems to be. Yet, when this organization was conceptualizing, the term "your ministry" was repeated by many who heard about what I felt called to do.
You should probably know, that during the conceptual phase, I did not have a relationship with God. I was more of a church visitor. A faith seeker in the making on an optimistic day. Most days I was relatively anti-religion. I thought of church as a place where God only welcomed the "Good" people. If you weren't good, you don't belong here. I also thought the really faithful people...well...they were kind of creepy. Seriously, how can you really be that happy all the time?
Here's what I did have. I had a family I loved with all of my heart. It's a small family. But they were MY family. I had a husband, who loves me even at my worst. I had two sweet boys who call me mom with this look in their eyes like I am the sunshine of their lives. And, I had a fire in my belly to make the world a better place for them, and other with Autism, to live. I wanted the world to see how amazing they were, just as they were. I wanted the world to welcome them with open arms, and call them their own. I wanted for them to know that there would be nothing to keep them from living a life full of love, laughter, and family.
In a former life (a.k.a. my life in Chicago), I thought being the best special education teacher ever would allow me to create this world for my sons. Turns out, that just about broke me. I'm not talking about broke in the financial sense. I was broken. My mind. My heart. My soul was broke. I poured everything I had into my classroom. I had nothing left for my home, including myself. I was broken.
When I left the world of teaching, I felt even more lost. Who am I, if I am not a teacher? Everything I did the past 15 years was to make myself into an amazing teacher!
Then one day, it dawned on me. I am not what I make myself into. There is so much more to me than teaching. I existed as a person before I began teaching. I am still a person now that I no longer teach.
I sang. I danced. I played euphonium. I went to music camp every summer. I read. I drew. I painted. I swam. I talked to people. I survived abuse. I cried. I laughed. I did so much more than teach. Why? Because I am so much more that who I make myself into.
Ah, and that was when I started to feel God within me, around me, in others, everywhere. Quakerism, taught me that all people have that of God within them. They call this an "inner light", and when a person lets their life be guided by this "inner light" they will achieve a full relationship with God. I leaned into my inner light and found music again.
Before I knew it, I was joining a church choir at a Methodist church in town. I met the sweetest people, who talked about loving Jesus...which didn't seem creepy anymore. While singing in church, I felt called to lead the special music one service during the summer while the choir was on vacation. I discovered Christian music artists like Lauren Daigle, who sang Dry Bones, which tells a beautiful story about those who pray for God to breath life into those who have lost their faith. The song is based on Ezekiel 37 where God call the profit to resurrect the bones. In essence this song is about God need His people to resurrect those who have been lost. Through this song, Lauren called me to my resurrected faith and belief in God.
I continued listening to Christian music, singing Christian music, and feeling led by the music to places I did not expect.
I began singing in hospice centers to honor my mom who required hospice services the last 6 weeks of her life. I began singing in coffee shops pop music with a couple Christian songs here and there. I began hosting open mics, where I would frequently sing Christian songs with pop songs.
I began to connect with people who would then become the founding members of Caring Hearts and Voices' Board of Directors. Soon after, I began to worship lead at another local Methodist church in a neighboring town. I even started to write music that would worship and honor Jesus. Music to honor those who have gone through difficult journeys with loved ones, only to watch their lives be cut away from us. The darkness in my world, was a darkness shared by many, and the music allowed me to light the darkness for others to find a way to one another.
I sing at a homeless shelters to give the clients some calming music to listen to as they check-in for the night. Sometimes while I'm singing, I get the chills, or a rush of energy, or an urge to sing a song I don't really enjoy, but keep in my binder for random moment like this. Later in the evening, a client or volunteer would reach out to me, with a tear in their eye, telling me I sang a song that touched them. It may have reminded them of a loved one, or a moment back in the day, or even allowed them to forget for just a moment, where they were.
Then this big, crazy, moment happened. One day, while leading worship I told the congregation of the moment I surrendered my life to Christ. For those who have not heard this story, it goes a little like this.
So I was at a performance at a very large church in a neighboring suburb. A section was hosting a movie night and wanted a musician to perform before the movie while people were arriving and eating their potluck dinner. Being one who never missed an opportunity to perform, I went! Following the movie, about Billy Graham, the section leader stood on stage and called all who would would publicly declare they too would follow Christ to join him on stage. And...no one moved.
Not one person moved.
Feeling bad for the guy, I walked on stage and said "I will." There was a prayer said over me, and I walked of the stage. People congratulated me when I walked past, where I oddly smiled and said "thank you?" I didn't know what surrendering you life to Jesus would mean. Now I do. That day changed me. That decision to feel bad for the guy and join him on stage changed me.
After telling the story, I realized I was publicly one of "those" people, and I started crying. Not like the totally weeping kid of crying. The tear in my eye, voice feels a little like it my iv me away, kind of crying. And this crying wasn't of embarrassment, it was from joy. Freedom. Peace.
As I sang my next song, there was something different with my voice. It felt clear. Free. I sang Not Today, which has some difficult notes toward the end. I hit every note, easily. It was as if my voice was literally telling the devil not today! Nope. Not ever again! It felt amazingly powerful, and purposeful. Which brings me to May 9th.
May 9th, I searched the vast online world of ministry. Music ministry. Online classes for ministry. Online minister. Ordination...then, one site stood out to me, and I felt drawn to complete their online essay on my faith. I spent all day writing this essay. I found my self praying over this essay. Asking for God to lead me to find the words to describe my faith with honesty and integrity. On May 10th, I received my ordination documents in an email. It was official. I am an ordained minister. Minister Maria Teresa Jordan.
I didn't earn it. I don't deserve it. Yet, I have it.
Just as God has recklessly loved me through all my doubt, and fears, and all the time I ran away from Him. I will work as an ordained minister to love other as He has loved me in to the oceans of this life I live. This paper, this title I now have, is my way of responding to God calling me to live a life of ministry through music.
I am Maria Jordan, founder of Caring Hearts and Voices. I started this organization to honor my mom, my sons, and my own story. We all have gone through difficult times. Times where we needed support from family, friends, and the people around us. For me, music was often a greater source of comfort during those times. Caring Hearts and Voices is dedicated to providing support to people in need through music. How can our Caring Hearts and Voices be there for you?