Stumbling towards Bethlehem...

I spent the morning in conversation with a young man about ministry - preparing for seminary, process and what that might mean for him - and it did my heart good. If he moves forward, and I think he will, that will mean we will have two students in the in-care/discernment process from our small congregation at the same time! What a treat. What a privilege. And what a responsibility. I think that by Christmas he will have a written narrative of his calling ready to review and then we can move forward in the new year as a congregation to help him affirm and discern what happens next.

When I was very young - 16 years old - I first discerned my call to ministry. By 18 I was "in-care" of my local church and the association in Connecticut where my family lived. As would become clear to me, however, although I never doubted the calling, I still had to test it repeatedly. Consequently, I was in-care of my local church for 13 years before I completed seminary and took a position in a local church in Saginaw. There is NO rush in sorting this commitment out.

I also recall that during my internship with Ray Swartzback in my senior year in seminary he said something to me like: a congregation that doesn't give birth to new ministers from within is spiritually dead. That has stayed with me for nearly 30 years. At first I didn't know what he was talking about, but it became clearer in time. It has something to do with experiencing both the presence of Christ in a congregation and sensing that the clergy are intimate with the Lord, too. The ministries, the community and the pastor must all authentically express something of God's grace and Christ's love in their unique ways. For without this, church life is only seen as either a series of meetings or an abstract, intellectual exercise.

So, as this brisk, autumn afternoon comes to a close, I've been thinking about the people who have sensed a call to ministry on my watch. As best I can recall, I have had the privilege of being part of this quest for 4 people - each circumstance very different - and each discernment process equally unique. I am prayerful about the young man I spoke with today. We shall see...

Comments

Black Pete said…
Amen, brother. It is incredible trip as well to be married to someone in discernment, then in the journey to ordination.
RJ said…
Oh man that is a whole other trip that I can't fully grasp. Thanks for identifying it - and being you - as your beloved took those first steps. Wow...

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