Nina Maples shared with the congregation last week that she is retiring after twenty years of faithful ministry among us. Sunday, May 20, will be Nina’s final Sunday. Nina wrote in her letter, “Transitions can be challenging, but they are also an opportunity for growth and fresh awakenings. God is still at work in the life of Highland Baptist Church, and I trust you will see God’s spirit revealing new ways of being church together in the days ahead. You are a strong and committed community of faith, and you will draw on your rich history as you continue to be a beacon of God’s love and light.” Click here to view her letter in its entirety.
Highland’s leadership of Deacons, Ministry Council, Personnel Ministry Group, Finance Ministry Group, Ad Hoc Committee, and Pastoral Interim Committee shared a letter with the congregation on Saturday in an email. “Along with making many lists and some immediate plans to assure that the daily work of the church continues, we will also be making plans to celebrate Nina’s ministry among us—too deep and rich and varied to describe in this letter—and to express our gratitude to her, and our blessings as she moves into a new area of ministry.
Once again, we remind ourselves and all of us that, while this is a time of momentous change and more than a few unknowns, we are together as Highland Baptist Church for God’s reasons and to do God’s work together. We want to encourage ourselves and all of us to draw together in faith, courage, hope, and love, for God’s purposes.” The entire letter can be found here.
Staff Reflects on Joy of Working with Nina Maples
The image I will always cherish is her open office door. I would leave my desk and wander down the hall to find Nina typing away at her computer. Nina served as my wise guide for my first decade in ministry, always willing to pause her work in order to answer questions, listen to my external processing, and help me wonder about the next right move. When our second son was born, Nina witnessed the chaos of getting my three-year-old to the car amidst a massive tantrum. She helped pick up the shoes, diaper bag, and car-seat with baby brother and followed me all the way home to make sure I made it home alright. Thus began a three-year ritual where Nina came over on Wednesday night to help me get the kids to bed while Drew was at choir practice. She was my Good Samaritan who helped pick me up off of the side of the road as a weary working mom and ensured that I was well taken care of.
Renee, Emily, and I came to quote Nina often, repeating to each other her wise saying, “All of life is letting go.” In these moments, as we prepare to “let go” of Nina in this formal capacity, I find great comfort in the beloved hymn, “O Love that Will Not Let Me Go.” The love that we have shared with Nina is a kind that we can never let go for it is an eternal bond that goes far beyond the bounds of the office. We let go of this season of relationship, but we hold fast to the eternal bond that we share as servants of God transformed by our years shared together in love. ~ Carol Harston
It is beyond me to try and explain how Nina has impacted my own life in a brief newsletter article among so many other amazing ministers who are sharing their own words on the same. But, so it goes in this season of retirement and transition and uncertainty and newness ahead. I was fortunate to witness Nina pass on two small gifts to a youth who is exploring her own call to ministry after Youth led Worship. The gifts were neither expensive nor extraordinary, but they are sacred. I could see it in the eyes of the youth who received them. We agreed that Nina was a sort of pastoral care wizard—something many of us know deeply. I know, too, along with the youth of whom I’m thinking, what it means to be empowered and loved by Nina into my best self and God’s calling. I suspect as much as true of many who will read this. I have not been fortunate to know and to continue to know Nina. I have been blessed. For Nina and her ministry, I share my deepest thanks. ~ Perry Dixon
While God’s movement in the world may elude us occasionally, I see divine activity most apparently through friendships—those special people God introduces to us, who through their love and conversation reveal deeper meaning in life and ministry (especially when we wear glow necklaces as crowns). How do you know when someone meets this level of friendship?
Nina and I were trying to recollect the beginning of ours just the other day…We couldn’t remember. It happened either while shopping for shoes together, or through a moment of shared vulnerability, or maybe it originated slowly through the cumulative effect of simple work days shared.
Despite a faulty memory, here is something I do remember and will always know to be true about both Nina, my dear friend and Nina, a pastor of Highland. She is an excellent keeper of secrets! (I know you already know this.) For twenty years she has held our confessed longings and fears, alongside joy-filled celebrations and accomplishments. I love good secret holders because it means they also know how to listen intently; they listen to understand and come alongside in their care.
Nina, thank you for modeling so naturally these often unnamed, but central elements, of the pastoral life. Know that the spirit of your sensitivity and fondness for the people of Highland will continue to evoke a thinking, feeling, healing mission among us. For this, we give God great thanks. And in the meantime, I’ll meet you at DSW (Designer Shoe Warehouse)! ~ Lauren Jones Mayfield
As I reflect back on 11 years of ministering alongside Nina, there are so many moments and paths that I could travel and reflect on. I could name the hilarity of Nina picking me up during my call weekend to navigate her way from Louisville Presbyterian Seminary where I was staying through the mini marathon traffic to the Bristol on Bardstown Road for lunch. I could name the joy of walking through the Cherokee Art Fair that same weekend and meeting church members for the first time as we strolled. I could name the many times I have knocked on her door to ask a question or gain wisdom or seek clarity on how to move forward in some situation before me. But beyond all of these, the most vivid memory of Nina that I have came on a summer Wednesday night at 1:30 in the morning as I was being prepped for emergency surgery. In that moment, like many of you I suspect, I experienced the comfort of this dear minister sitting at my bedside and holding my hand in one of the most painful, confusing and sad days of my life. This moment was bookended by watching Thanksgiving morning worship via Facetime from my hospital bed the day after Eliza was born and hearing Nina read her name aloud to the congregation for the first time. These are deeply treasured and beloved moments. While I (we) will miss her everyday presence in our midst in the days, weeks and months to come, here is the truth that I know. Nina has taught us well. She has modeled for us how to love one another through joy and through crisis, how to show up when it is most necessary, how to be courageous and hold another’s hand through the most difficult of days, and how to celebrate well the joys among us. May we embody Christ one to one another just as she has to each of us. ~ Renee Purtlebaugh
Nina Maples has been my next-door neighbor in Highland’s office suite for almost 11 years. In 2007, she graciously gave up a large portion of her original office so the Minister of Music could have an office adjacent to the choir room. Being next door meant that I loved to holler back and forth or pick up the phone—extension 12—when we needed to whisper more private information. We have giggled about shoes, jewelry, children, food, and her directional challenges in driving around the city. We have shared prayer and concern over Highland’s faith family that she lovingly shepherded for 21 years. I have respected her privacy whenever the noise machine was going on outside her office and laughed at the times she screamed for Andria’s help with computer issues. I will miss Nina Griffin Maples . . . how do I know her maiden name? Because I often returned her Bible on Monday from the sanctuary! ~ Kathy Collier