Getting to know… Elissa Bailey

We’re getting to know presbytery leaders from around the synod.  This month, meet Elissa Bailey!  Elissa is not only the Stated Clerk of the Presbytery of Great Rivers, but she also serves as stated clerk to another presbytery in another synod at the same time!

Tell us about your current call.

I serve as the Stated Clerk for Great Rivers Presbytery and East Iowa Presbytery. I have served as the Stated Clerk for East Iowa for just over a year, but I began serving as the Assistant Stated Clerk in Great Rivers about 11 years ago. That eventually turned into the Stated Clerk role. I have also served as a solo pastor, associate pastor, and interim pastor. I am also currently working on completing a Masters in Mental Health Counseling to become a licensed therapist as I look towards a future of bi-vocationalism. I went straight to college and then to seminary so my calling as a pastor – and then very quickly mid-council work – was not followed by a previous career.

I know it sounds cliché, but what interests me most about ministry has always been helping others. I have especially appreciated helping others during their most difficult times in life. As a high schooler, I spoke at the funeral of my best friend and found a sense of peace and calmness. Ten months later, when my mother died, I planned her funeral and called the family and did all of the things. Even though I was only 17 at the time, it all felt so incredibly natural to me. Even today, the areas of ministry I would say that I have appreciated the most have been hospital visits and funerals. There is something so sacred when the lines between heaven and earth are thin.

You attended the Synod of Lincoln Trails COM/CPM Summit this year.  What was your experience like? What did you take away?

I have attended COM/CPM events before with Lincoln Trails and I have always appreciated the knowledge I have walked away with. It was different this time as I am serving only as a Stated Clerk and no longer as a pastor. The worship certainly felt different to me as I no longer lead worship. It was also captivating to watch others work though the complexities of their current contexts and to figure out how to integrate what they learned into their contexts and systems. I was with a great group from Great Rivers, so I knew I wasn’t going to be working through anything alone and was excited to see how our presbytery thought through what might work and what wouldn’t.

I have had several conversations continue on smaller levels, but as a whole, the presbytery has just undergone a very exciting but large transition and therefore, we haven’t had the opportunity to implement as much as would would like to. I look forward to the ways we will be doing so in the future.

You’re serving two different presbyteries in two different synods.  What are you learning from your unique perspective?

I work in two presbyteries and two synods that are vastly different from another another. My role in each doesn’t look the same for the most part. I appreciate the wisdom I gain from the work I do in both and how that can translate across the lines, boundaries, and, quite literally, the river. The greatest gift both have brought me is flexibility and learning there is more than one way to accomplish the same task. It has also been beneficial because even when one of the presbyteries or committees doesn’t realize it, they are garnering information from the other by way of what I learn from each other. As Stated Clerks, and even as Presbytery Leaders, we need to spend more time with each other.

What’s a resource that you’ve discovered that you’d like to recommend to stated clerks and other presbytery leaders?

If you are a Stated Clerk and you are not a part of the Association of Stated Clerks and thus, the email group, that is an information center you want. The same is said for the Association of Mid Council Leaders. It is always helpful to know that we do not do this work alone. When we have questions or even difficulties, there are places to go where others have walked similar paths and can talk about their experience, what worked, what didn’t, and what the Book of Order will allow.

What do you like to do outside of work and church?

I love books, but I don’t have a lot of time to read — so I tend to listen to audiobooks. I do love a good book by Nicholas Sparks or Jodi Picoult. I also read for my future career. The best book I read recently was by Bessel van der Kolk and was titled “The Body Keeps the Score.” I tend to listen while driving on longer trips. I love traveling and road trips. I have a Cricut and enjoy crafts.

My husband and I live in Bloomington, IL, with our three youngest children (Grace, Sophia, and Mitchell). We also have two cats: Jake and Kion. We keep pretty busy.

What are your plans or hopes for 2023?

Summer is going to be busy! I am taking a quarter break from school before my internship starts later this fall. The kids have church camp, swim lessons, and VBS. Grace has singing camp, and 5th grade band will be starting. I will be a camp chaplain at Camp Wyoming for one week, so we will all be going there in July. Two short weeks after that will be synod school! It will be our second time going and we are looking forward to that for sure! We are hoping to sneak in a quick trip to Minnesota to see my sister. Then the summer will be over and the rest of 2023 will begin!

Great Rivers has just hired a new Lead Presbyter and I am very much looking forward to partnering with Rev. Ann Schwartz and continuing to see how the presbytery can grow. We are doing a lot of great work within our congregations and the presbytery as a whole and I am always encouraged to see how people come together and be the connectional body Christ calls us to be.