20 May, 2010

Been a Long While Coming

It's been a long while since I've blogged. So long that: 1) my two avid fans who used to harass me about needing to write another post have given up hope, and 2) I am no longer "amply-goateed," but am now "amply bearded" and look shockingly like a younger version of the patient Greek monk in the picture to the right.

It's also been so long that I'm now only 24 days from being ordained, which, if I read Revelation rightly, means the great and glorious Day of the Lord is well nigh upon us. Try to look busy.

I felt my call to ministry at Sr. Hi Camp at Camp Bridgeport, back in Texas. I was 15. So now, 22 years later - almost to the day - I'm finishing up a journey that began before I could (legally) drive. In the intervening 192,864 or so hours, I've graduated high school and Southwestern University (Go Pirates!); worked as a youth pastor; decided to give up on ministry as a career; waited tables at a TGI Fridays; decided to give up on waiting tables as a career; worked on Native American reservations patching up bullet holes and (and other broken stuff) in people's homes; have been haunted by God and her angels; decided to stay with the ministry thing; gone to Perkins School of Theology where I once hugged a dean (1); fallen in love and gotten married (barefoot and almost in the rain); lived in Yellowstone, the Virgin Islands and a house built by L.L. Bean's best friend; lived in a village in rural England with more sheep per acre than any other place in the world; moved to the Oregon Territory and bought a house.

I've been assigned, licensed and commissioned. I've written loads of papers, been interviewed thrice, psychologically profiled once and physically examined twice (2).

And now, Good Lord willing, I shall be ordained on June 12, 2010, at 7:00 in the evening at Salem's First United Methodist Church. (3)

Lately I've been pondering what this ordination might mean. I was able to answer that question rightly (apparently) for the interview committees, but I've been mulling what it really and truly means for me.

I know it means less paper writing and no more BOOM interviews. (Thank you, Jesus.)

I know it means (at least for now) that I will have the Methodist version of tenure and am guaranteed an appointment.

It definitely means that some of my very favorite people in the world are coming to Oregon in June to celebrate with me and that we are going to party like Vikings on holiday.

But actually, the day-in, day-out practice of ministry won't change that much. That's a good thing. Because ministry, as I understand it anyway, is less about formal education and official certificates than it is about receiving and reflecting God's love.

I'm all for church nerdiness, higher education and the clear roles of ordained clergy folk within the life of the church. But I also hope that I've learned enough to know that whatever the certificate says, I'm but one of Jesus' followers and not that different than any of the other folks he's called.

It's been a great ride so far. As I told the folks at the Baccalaureate service this week, I wouldn't change it if I could.

But it will be nice to be done with papers.

Much peace, much love, etc.

(1) At Perkins graduation, I hugged the dean, who wouldn't have known my name if it weren't on the diploma. Last I heard, there is still a "Do not hug the dean" rule during the pre-graduation reminders at Perkins. It's good to have a legacy.

(2) For some reason, the United Methodist Church needs to know quite a bit about a candidate's physical state before allowing him or her to serve. The official, downloadable medical form even requires the doctor to comment upon whether or not the examinee's genitalia are notable in any way. Mine were not.

(3) The Title for Salem's Best United Methodist Church is still up for grabs.


  1. I thought that too--that ministry would not change much between probationary/provisional membership and full membership. But then the bishop said to me, as bishops say to all, "Take authority as an Elder...." and something changed. I still have difficulty articulating exactly what changed, but I changed. Maybe it was the Holy Spirit, maybe it was finally final confirmation of my call, whatever it was, a power and a freedom came with the ordination that I did not have previously.

    I hope and pray that you too may receive the power and the freedom to work as an elder as you take authority.

    Of course, I have to vote for you before that all happens. ;)

    Congratulations on the completion of the journey.

  2. Well First UMC in Salem might get my best vote only because they gave me an apple pie when I visited :-) Congratulations on the milestone achievement and enjoy the celebration.

  3. There are no words to describe our pride and humbleness at this milestone! I too pray that this changes nothing about your understanding of ministry. Modeling the love Jesus lived to a world in such dire need of even a minuscule bit of that love and help, is what we, you and all are called to do. Scalp hunting might be viewed as wonderful but for my understanding of the Gospel just loving all in as close a manner to how Jesus loves all, and making certain that LOVE is an active verb is the true Gospel.

    Thank God for His persistence in making certain you entered His ministry and your tenacity in seeing the process through and thank God for the one in whom you fell in love..She is beyond special ..she is super....

  4. Following a religoius blog???? Maybe. at least I think the author is interesting. :) Mary

  5. Glory and Thanks be to God! I can't wait to see it with my very own eyes...for I've known you for all those 22 years and have been anticipating this grand event. I have to agree that not much changes when one understands and practices ministry the way you do -- with REAL (which can get MESSY) authenticity and impeccable integrity. I am ready to be part of this great day for the Church...and glad you no longer have to write papers. We both FINALLY blogged this week. Love, grace, peace, love. Mike

  6. How wonderful! Wow - ordination what a great honor - you are truly a gift to the Methodist church and to those you minister with and of course to your friends. Mark Schlessman