Twenty years ago, on June 21, 1998, I was ordained a Deacon in the Virginia Annual Conference. Every year I remember my ordination vows as a new group is commissioned. But 2018 has drawn me further and deeper back. In my now tattered manila folder is a receipt for my psychological test ($90) and names from the six interview teams. Dwight L. Zavitz and Ernest Herndon actually made the Teaching interview enjoyable and gave me confidence through their encouragement. And my sacraments team taught me group theological reflection in action. The folder has all 6 papers, which I’m reviewing in my theological reflection between now and reaffirming my ordination at NEAC 2018.
It has notes from my mentor, the wise and generous Cynthia Corley. I’ve sent them all thank you notes again this spring. It has my SPRC’s names, three of whom I’ve managed to stay in touch with! It has my ordination certificate with Bishop Joe Pennel’s signature. That was the year he apologized on the floor of conference to the young woman he recognized late in the day saying, “Well, we’ll make time for you because you’re young and pretty.” I learned a lot from seeing our leader model authentic humility and sincere repentance.
I have my call statement which includes “As I have been formed in faith by the United Methodist Church and remain in union with her Wesleyan theology and Social Principles, I identify this call to be specifically rooted in the United Methodist Community as it participates in God’s larger body of believers.” Through all my internal wrestling during the UMC’s current growing pains, this remains true. My call statement ends with “It is my dearest hope that I will someday be able to join the struggles and celebrations of a local church as their pastor.” This remains the highest calling I can imagine, even as I serve for a time in this supervisory role.
How does God build a minister? There is the individual work of the person experiencing call. There is also the work of faithful disciples who God places in our path. Healthy churches have “call” as a normal part of ongoing conversation. There are parents and church members who talk with children and youth about ministry as potential vocational choices, who share stories of pastors who have influenced their lives for the better. There are small group members who notice pastoral gifts emerging in each other and ask, “have you considered….?” and congregations who lovingly encourage the growth of worship and preaching gifts from awkward beginnings to confident proficiency. There are lay folks and clergy who give their time to serve on Staff Parish Relations committees, District Committees on Ministries, and Boards of Ordained Ministry. There are families that walk with us through the growing pains, highs and lows that inevitably arise as we live into these calls.
Would you take some time this month to offer words of encouragement? Maybe they will be to a young person in whom you see gifts for ministry. Maybe they will be to a clergyperson or church leader who God has used to bless you. Maybe they will be to someone who supported your journey into ministry. Always, I hope we will offer words of thanks to God for the call to live into God’s purpose in each of our own lives!
In God’s Grace, Karen
Churches in my Faith Family Tree:
Faith Lutheran Church, Quincy, MA
First Presbyterian Church, Muncie Indiana
Mount Tabor, United Methodist Church, Dunkirk, Indiana
Wesley Foundation, Ames, Iowa
First Congregational Church, Minneapolis, MN
Bremerton UMC, Washington
Twin Towers UMC, Alameda, CA
Calvary UMC, Middletown Road Island
Virginia Beach UMC, VA
Fifth Avenue UMC, Saratoga Springs, NY
Fox Hill UMC, Hampton, Virginia
Christ Crossman UMC, Falls Church, Virginia
Military Chapel, Naval Base, Yokosuka, Japan
Readfield UMC, ME
Brunwick UMC, ME