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.