For the second in our series, we spoke with Rev. Laura Bratton. Laura grew up in Greenville, SC, got her undergrad degree from Arizona State in Psychology, and got her MDiv from Princeton Theological Seminary in 2010. While at PTS, Laura worshipped with us at PUMC from 2007 to 2010, serving as seminary intern with us in the summer of 2009.
While at seminary, one of the most enriching experiences for Laura was being around people of faith from all over the world and gaining a world perspective of spirituality. “Which, it turns out, is a lot like being at PUMC,” Laura said.
After graduation from PTS, Laura did a year of residency at Cleveland Clinic to be certified as a chaplain. Chaplaincy was her first career path. But, as we know, sometimes God has other plans. The years following 2009 and 2010 found hospitals cutting back on hiring chaplains after the financial crisis. To be ordained, Laura had to spend two years in full-time ministry in her home conference, so she returned to Greenville to pursue a more traditional church route as lead pastor at Laurens Road Methodist Church in Greenville. Ten years later, she’s still there! But that’s not all Laura’s been up to.
In 2015 Laura became certified as a spiritual director, someone who guides individuals or groups in their spiritual journey, helping them incorporate daily spiritual practices and experiencing the spirit to move them forward to experience more spiritual presence in their lives. And in 2016, Laura became certified as a bereavement and grief counselor. She serves as a spiritual director and grief counselor both in private practice and within her church.
Perhaps most exciting is that Laura published her book, Harnessing Courage – Overcoming Adversity with Grit and Gratitude in 2016. To write this book, Laura drew upon her personal experience of overcoming and adapting as a person who was fully sighted and then became blind. I HIGHLY recommend the book!
Laura spent time on the road presenting and talking and facilitating workshops based on Harnessing Courage. Laura and other groups still use the book today in their work to help people with the way they process trauma and adversity. Laura’s real passion is empowering others, guiding them, and giving them the tools to move through adversity and trauma they are experiencing.
While at PUMC, Laura was deeply involved in our church. She worked with the communications committee to help with rebranding and increasing our presence in the community. She facilitated a workshop on “Listening Prayer” that taught us about breath prayers, listening for God, and gratitude. Laura’s workshop was instrumental in my personal prayer life.
About PUMC, Laura says that we gave her the opportunity to experience many firsts – first sermon, first worship leadership, first time leading a Bible study, first vacation Bible School, first time helping with communion – it all started here at PUMC.
What does the future hold? Laura wants to work more with teenagers and college-age young adults to help them navigate difficult and challenging times, empowering them with resources.
I end with this from Laura. “I am deeply grateful for the way PUMC welcomed me and gave me the opportunity to learn. Being the first blind person at Princeton, accommodations had to be made. I had to do my internship during the summer, which PUMC had never done. I went to the staff and asked for the exception to allow me a 40-hour/ week internship over the summer. Through all of my time of worshiping or my internship at PUMC, not one person ever treated me differently because of my blindness – I honor PUMC for that.” What a blessing you are, Laura!
Want to keep up with Laura? Learn more about her at www.ubiglobal.org.
By Iona Harding