Posts Tagged ‘ordination’

Some thoughts on Discerning the Call

March 3, 2010

The title of this post might be more accurately stated “Some Random thoughts on Discerning the Call.”  I am writing this post in hopes that my experience thus far will be of help for folks who are also discerning a call to ministry.  Though in many ways my experience will ground this discussion largely in the framework of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), my hope is that some of my thoughts will be general enough to speak to folks in other denominations as well.  Much of this post is based on an e-mail I wrote to a friend who is also in the process of discernment.

As it stands, I am one step away from Candidacy.  I have met with (and gotten the thumbs up from) the Committee on Preparation for Ministry in my Presbytery and will be going before presbytery in April if all goes as planned.  That said, since ordination is the responsibility of the presbytery, this process will differ depending on what presbytery you are in.  While the backbone of the process will remain the same, some (or many) of the specifics will change.  There are some presbyteries that make additions to what the Book of Order requires on a case by case basis.  There are others that have formalized extra requirements for all candidates.  In most cases, it seems to me that the “extra” requirements are not anything you won’t have the opportunity to do at seminary, but they are specifically delineated and will hold you up from ordination if you don’t complete them.  In some cases, the seminary requires some of the items for graduation so they are no brainers.

So far as what I have experienced going through the process, my session has not had someone under care for quite some time so most of the folks on session were not as familiar with the process.  If there is a seminary in your presbytery, this will likely not be an issue as there will probably be LOTS of inquirers and candidates in these presbyteries! : ) As a result of the fact that my session was learning right along with me, initially my session and I walked through the process together. While some sessions assign a liaison before ever appearing in front of session (the first step in the process), my liaison was assigned after the session voted to endorse me as an inquirer. I have heard that some people select their liaison but in my case, she volunteered. Fortunately she is a wonderful liaison!  I submitted my Form 1 prior to my meeting with session and got advice before submitting the document but did it mostly on my own.  The questions on the forms definitely freaked me out (both for the inquirer form (FORM 1) and the candidacy form (FORM 5A)) but it seems to me that the forms are 1) a way to get an idea of your spiritual growth throughout the process and 2) to contribute to your spiritual growth throughout the process. Answering the questions has forced me to delineate my faith and as a result it has been strengthened. I became an inquirer in July 2008. When I was filling out my Form 5A in December 2009, I looked at my answers to my Form 1 and wanted to laugh. Having not been in the Presbyterian church for very long when I filled it out, I was grasping for straws when it came to the vocabulary to express my beliefs. This is something I still struggle with but being in the Presbyterian mecca of Princeton Theological Seminary has definitely helped. The forms are a way for session and the Committee to see who you are and not really to see if you can give the “right” answers.  Granted this is as I see it and if you wrote something about how you took a pilgrimage to Disney to get closer to Jesus they might raise their eyebrows, but at this point, they want to hear your story and they want to get to know who you are.  And when I say your story, I mean your faith journey and your sense of call thus far.

Having walked through the process thus far, it seems to me that there are two functions of the CPM: 1) serving as a gatekeeper and 2) serving as a support throughout the process. Sometimes their “support” may not feel that way, but being challenged, while not comfortable, is going to help with discernment just as much as the ‘atta-boys’ so to speak.  I no longer feel as much of the ‘gatekeeper’ mentality going on but feel more support.  I don’t think the ‘gatekeeper’ aspect of the community ever goes away, but after the committee gets to know you a bit, it will not be (or at least will not seem to be?) as prominent.

One thing I learned along the way totally changed the way I thought about things: you do NOT have to defend your call to anyone.  There are various aspects of your story that may make you feel as though you need to defend your call, so you will need to talk about how those things have played into your discernment process, but again, you don’t need to defend your call. It’s not even yours really…it’s God’s call on your life.  Or even God’s call on the life God has given to you to live.  There will be folks who will help you discern what that might mean or look like, but ultimately if God is calling you and you merely have to decide whether you will answer.  I don’t recommend running from a sense of call (just look at Jonah) but that’s an entirely different post.

Confused: Too Many Possibilities

January 10, 2010

Photo by: Stefan Baudy

Lately I have been frustrated with the choices I have in front of me.  While I was comfortable coming into seminary not knowing what I would end up doing afterwards (since it is at least 3 years away), I have definitely been seeking clarity with respect to my call.  I have quite a few great opportunities with the programs the seminary offers, and it is all very exciting!  That is except when I start to plan what it will look like to follow that path and subsequently wonder if it is the path I will walk or not.  For instance, there is a great joint degree program that Princeton Seminary offers that would allow me to earn a Master’s in Social Work with only one additional year of schooling.  As this is something I have felt drawn towards in the past, it started to seem as though that was something I was called to do.  As this would require me to be much more judicious with the courses I take, I came up with a fabulous spread sheet to keep track of the credit requirements for the M-Div and leave room for classes that would count towards the MSW.  But now I am doubting that.  I am taking a class about teaching in the church and it is becoming very evident to me that I am passionate about helping people learn.  But what am I supposed to do with that?  I have thought that maybe I could see if they would let me shift to a dual degree so I could get an Master’s degree in Christian Education and the M.Div. but I can’t very well do that and the MSW program.  I’m not trying to make plans of my own without regard for what God is calling me to do but maybe that’s what’s happening.  I am trying to discern what God is calling me to do which to me means stepping out in faith and being willing to be wrong.  I wonder if that’s part of the problem then?  Maybe I am not really willing to be wrong.  Maybe I just want to pick something and have it magically be part of what God is calling me to do.  I guess I will try to hold the possibility that I am wrong and the hope that I have discerned rightly together for as long as possible and wait for God to redirect my plans.  If only that we as easy to do as it is to say.

On a positive note, I am scheduled to meet with my session via Skype on Tuesday to start the process of becoming a Candidate for ministry of Word and Sacrament.  My meeting with CPM (the ordination committee for PC(USA)) is scheduled for Jan 19th though I will not be going to the Presbytery meeting until April.  I am okay with that though because it means everyone will be able to be there.

Hello

November 1, 2008

It’s been a while hasn’t it.  For some reason I have not been up for blogging lately.  I started back to work after a week and a half of being out after the toe surgery.  It was a dreadful day.  In the time I was off I truly felt a peace with the world.  I was reading and writing.  I was interacting with people about reading and writing.  I wrote my first sermon.  I prepared to lead my very first worship service.  It was wonderful.  I thought to myself, “This is what it means to be me.”  And then I couldn’t be me anymore.  I had to go back to my 8-5, task oriented, non-creative job. And my soul was in shock and rebellion from this.  That and my toe hurt after being up on it most of the day. 

Friday was a bit better.  And then the weekend was awesome.  I got to preach for the first time.  I am planning on blogging about that more specifically later, but suffice to say it was an awesome experience.

And then I went to my 8-5, task oriented, non-creative job.  But I was a bit more content because God confirmed some things for me when I preached.  But again, more on that later.

There have been other things going on in life lately.  For one I have been very tired.  This is probably partially due to the surgery but I think it is mostly due to the weather.  The short days are really messing with me.  I am also the lead person for Operation Christmas Child at my church his year.  Fun stuff.  I love OCC.  And this week and next I am facilitating my Sunday morning Bible study.  I like all the stuff but it leaves me feeling lonely.  I feel as though I have community but then I feel as though I don’t.  Things like Facebook and Twitter are nice, but I feel as though they provide only the illusion of community instead of the reality.  I feel linked up to many, but connected to so few.  That said, I have two friends now that I can have over and still stay in my PJs.  How cool is that?  I love it.

It is sad to me that  have gotten more calls from political telemarketers than anyone else.  Truth be known, more than everyone else combined.  I took a nap after work today to avoid throwing myself a pity party, but it is hard.  Then one of my PJ friendscameover and that was nice because I didn’t have to entertain.  I just got to be me with someone else in the room.  It was really nice.  And she made me cheesy rice and brought me chocolate.

I also got information on two schools in Jerusalem that I am going to look into in hopes of going there this summer.  Another friend of mine threw out the dea of a kibbutz so I am going to look into that as well.

I found out I will get to go to my Aunt and Uncle’s for Thanksgiving which is good.  My mom’s b-day is the day before so it will be good to see her for sure.

I am finally getting organized at work.  After a year of trying to figure everything out without having a lot to go on, I am finally organizing it all.  It’ quite amazing really.  I have a new boss now and he is pretty awesome and has made work much less stressful.  I am thankful for that.  I only hope that his ledership is a gift from God to help me stay in this place as long as I am supposed to.  But I am really wondering how long that is going to be.  Maybe it’s much shorter than I think.  Who knows.

Been thinking a lot lately about LGBT “issues” to include ordination of LGBT people.  I am reading a book called “A Time to Embrace” by William Stacy Johnson.  I also want to read Jack Rogers’ “Jesus, The Bible, And Homosexuality” and maybe “The Children are Free” by Rev. Jeff Miner and John Tyler (I think).  It seems to me that since i am seeking ordination in PC(USA) I should seek to understand both sides of the issues which for me means learning much more about those who support ordination of LGBT people since my faith journey was predominantly fundamental until about a year and a half ago.

I have had a few folks send me messages on Facebook to ask me what I am up to lately.  When I reply “working on my M-div” I seem to be getting silence.  It irks me that fundies think if they don’t agree with something ignoring it will be helpful.  Maybe I’m reading too much into it.  Or maybe they are rallying the troops to attack from all sides.  Maybe the are all praying for me in hopes that I will repent of my wickedness and turn from my wicked ways.  If they are, I both appreciate it and am annoyed by it.  *shrug*

In other news, I voted via absentee ballot the other day.  Decided to do that due to the toe surgery.  I am now officially an Obama Mama as Carol put it.  : )

Well, I guess that’s all for now.  Lots of ramblings, but hey…it’s something.

Approved!

July 15, 2008

My meeting with the CPM was this morning and it went well!  As of today I am officially an Inqirer!  What a relief!  I am super hungry at the moment so I will blog more later.  Cioa!