Unlike the weather in which there has been much precipitation in Ohio and Indiana over the last several weeks, I have been in a writing “dry spell” – on my blog at least. I have done some of my own personal and reflective writing, though, to help me process the events of the last few weeks and prepare me to share in this more open forum.
On Monday, I interviewed with a team from the Indiana Board of Ordained Ministry to be approved for commissioning toward ordination in The United Methodist Church. This was something I had been preparing for and anticipating during my entire seminary career. I had prayed, reflected, read, prayed, studied, prayed (do you detect a theme here?), written hundreds of pages, and prayed some more over the last few years to understand and clarify my beliefs, my passions, and my call to ordained ministry. My service as pastor at Smithville has helped me define and refine my gifts and graces for ministry. I had run for many years before acknowledging that God was calling me and could use me in ministry, but since that time when I finally admitted it, I have never questioned that call. I know within the very depths of my being that God has called me to this place.
In the weeks preceding my interview I must admit that I was quite anxious. I didn’t talk or write about that anxiety very much in public, but it was there. These interviews are intense and the screening process is very personal. And understandably so. Pastors have power and can cause great damage to people, churches and even themselves when that power is misused or not handled properly. Boards of Ordained Ministry are entrusted with the responsibility to make certain that candidates are truly prepared and ready for the demands of full-time ministry; that those seeking ordination are living lives worthy of their calling and have the ability to articulate God’s love and grace to those around them. These Boards have the task of making difficult decisions. Though I was very secure in my call, as I prepared for the interview, I was admittedly anxious about the questions that would be asked of me.
After the interview on Monday, I received a telephone call in the evening with the news of the Board’s decision to delay my commissioning this year. The Board affirmed my call to ministry and would like me to apply for commissioning again next year, but they were concerned about my own self-care. This was difficult news to swallow as this is an area of my life in which I have been actively working. I have been working on healthier habits, taking much-needed Sabbath time, and setting clear boundaries with my time and responsibilities. I admit this is an area that needs continued attention and refinement. It is an area of challenge for clergy (and most people in general) as we try to balance our own needs with the needs of those around us.
In the midst of this disappointing news, though, I have been overwhelmed with the amount of encouragement and support I have received from those around me. I could have never imagined such love! My parents, family, friends and colleagues have all embraced me and showered me with loving support and prayer. Prior to my interview, I preached at my home church – Avon United Methodist Church in Indiana – last Sunday. The affirmations I received from Pastor Karen, the other staff and the congregation on Sunday were extraordinary and have continued throughout the week even after the news of Board’s decision was announced. My seminary community at MTSO was incredibly affirming and supportive when I returned to campus on Wednesday, and that love has continued in the form of e-mails, phone calls, facebook comments and messages, hugs and more. I have been the recipient of some wonderful pastoral care. Thank you.
I do NOT question my call and I will continue to be in pastoral ministry until I reapply for commissioning again next year. I will still graduate from seminary in 90 days (but who’s counting?!), and I will continue as pastor at Smithville until the end of June as planned. I have many options to explore and some decisions to make in the next few months about the pastoral position(s) I take until commissioning next year. I very much appreciate your support on the journey to this point and ask for your continued prayers for direction as I navigate this delay and detour.
If you are interested in viewing the video of my sermon at Avon last week, click on the following link. http://www.avonumc.com/avms.asp?avstartid=2 If the video does not load automatically, click on the sermon title “Defining Moments” uploaded on 2-15-10.
Until next time, peace …