Monday, January 27, 2020

Transitions

At the beginning of my journey toward ordination in the United Church of Christ, I sat at the end of a long table in my Association's office. I was meeting with its Committee on Ministry to answer questions about my sense of call to ministry before being formally received into the process. It was intimidating to sit there, although I knew that the people were there to discern with me and help me figure out what my calling was about.

In Coffeehouse Contemplative, I call this "communal discernment." I believe that we're meant to do the work of figuring out God's presence in our lives in community, rather than by ourselves. In this way, we have others to hear us, to ask questions, to push back lovingly, and to offer guidance for what comes next.

That first interview planted a seed that would only be watered by another interview a few years later, when again I sat at the end of that table to be approved for ordination, pending a call to a ministry setting. Again, people asked questions. And again, they were there to offer support and affirmation and guidance.

That seed was a thought; a sense that I eventually wanted to sit around that table to help others. I was thankful to do that eventually as a member of that same Committee on Ministry. But that same sense was part of my desire to pursue spiritual direction: I wanted to journey alongside people in ministry and help them figure out where God was in their calling. And maybe one day, God willing, I might sit at tables like that not only as a committee member, but as a person called to that type of ministry in a formal capacity.

The seed that was planted way back during those initial interviews was a vocational one. As I have served churches, I have sought opportunities to help clergy in their work, with an eye toward the possibility that, should the time arise, I could serve in the wider UCC to do this work in a different way.

And now that time has come.

Beginning shortly after Easter, I will join the national staff of the United Church of Christ as its new Minister for Ministerial Calls and Transitions. My focus will be ministers in between calls, interim ministers, ministerial profiles, and the Ministry Opportunities database. It will be far different work than what I've been doing for the past 15 years as a pastor. Or to put it another way, it will bring what I've long been doing on the fringes to the center.

I am excited for this work, and grateful for the chance to serve. The door to return to local church ministry will always be open. For countless reasons, I am thankful for the years I have had the opportunity to serve communities of faith as their spiritual guide, teacher, and pastoral caregiver, and I'll never rule out a call to do it again down the road.

I welcome your prayers as I transition into this role.

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