Institut(ion): In Every Sense of the Word (3 of 5)

I spent last week at a youth camp, Institute 2010: God’s All Stars, which is a ministry of the Conference Council on Youth Ministry of the Kansas East Annual Conference. This post is part of a series reflecting on the week and making applications for the local church.

Institute is an institution with the good and the bad that it brings. There are rich traditions and a history that brings the past to light and looks to the future. Many of the adult leaders at camp this summer remember an experience of the very same camp when they were young. One of the pastors among the adult leaders remembers feeling first called to ministry in the very place where we had morning worship during the week. However, the rich history has the side effect of narrowing the vision of what could be possible for a camp among the high school students of the Kansas East Conference. There are some practices that are clearly leftovers from time gone by and while faithful have ceased to be relevant.

What about in your local church? How has the past shaped who the community is today? In what ways does the history shape both the present and the future?

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My Call to Ministry

My call to ministry has been a chain of experiences that have brought me to my current understanding of God’s call in my life. In the summer of 2002, I realized that God was not calling me to a career in biology, my field of study at the time. I considered many possibilities for life after graduation during the fall semester of my final year at Pittsburg State University. One of those possibilities was pursuing graduate theological education.

At a campus ministry reterat, as I was reading the account of Jesus calling his disciples in the Gospel according to John, I heard God speaking to me. The disciples’ question, “Where are you staying?” seemed to correspond to my question, “What is this whole seminary thing about?” Jesus responds clearly to them: “Come and see.” To me this response was Jesus saying to me, “Come and find out what seminary is about and how you can serve God in the world. Follow me and I will show you what you need to know.” As a result of this and other experiences, I enrolled at Wesley Theological Seminary after receiving a Bachelor of Science in Biology in 2003 from Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, KS.

When I enrolled in seminary I was not sure of which direction theological education would take me. Over the next few years my calling was refined from a call to seminary, to a confirmation of my place in seminary, to a call to ordained ministry serving in the local church. I graduated from Wesley Theological Seminary with a Masters of Divinity degree in May 2006.

It has been a mix of struggle, joy and surprises. I was helped primarily by my family and friends. I am currently serving as a pastor at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection.

One of the positive influences in my call to ministry was an exploration event. I invite you to consider www.gbhem.org/exploration as a possibility if you are exploring a call to ministry and are between a high school senior and age 24.

Women Officiating Weddings

I very strongly believe in equal opportunity for women and men in ministry. Sometimes the issue of the gender of a pastor arises around weddings. The following email is an excellent response from a male clergy person to someone who requested that he officiate a wedding ceremony instead of the female clergy person who had been initially recommended from the church. I think that it is a very sound response and will use it as a model in the future.

Thank you very much for your email. While I am flattered by your very kind words, I must unfortunately decline your request to officiate your wedding ceremony. The first reason is that none of the pastors at our church, including the senior pastor, is free to schedule weddings outside of our staff wedding coordinator. This is done to ensure that there is a high level of coordination between facilities, staff, and all of the other elements involved in staging a wedding.

The second reason I must decline is because of my feeling that accepting your request would be to effectively deny the validity of the ministry of my female colleagues. I understand that you have a strong sense of tradition attached to the churches you were brought up in. However, some of that tradition might possibly be rooted in a belief (on the church’s part) that women are inherently not suited to serve as pastors. In my experience, women are not only just as suited as men, but in some cases uniquely sensitized to realms of the spirit that men might be less comfortable with. This is especially the case with women pastors at this church.

I hope you might have the opportunity to re-evaluate your feelings on this subject and proceed with the pastor which the staff wedding coordinator has already recommended to you. Marriage is about mutual growth and compromise and what better place to begin that process than on your wedding day.

Have you ever experienced a similar issue? What responses have you given or found to be helpful in similar situations?

Advice, Suggestions and Self-Reflection

Last week I interviewed for a clinical pastoral education position at St. Luke’s Hospital. One of the questions that I try to ask any interview team is this – What advice would you have for me (as a person in his second year of professional ministry)? I received the following responses from the interview team (summarized):

  • Have you thought about a spiritual director?
  • A CPE residency would have been invaluable before returning to the local church.
  • Live a well balanced full life outside of ministry.

Each one of the interview team did not give direct advice to me, but instead reflected on their own experience of life.

In similar situations, do you most naturally give suggestions for other people, tell them what to do or reflect on your own life? Something else entirely?

Clergy Transitions at Resurrection (1 of ?)

On March 21, it was announced to the Resurrection congregation that Judy Long O’Neal will be appointed to Shawnee Heights United Methodist Church in Topeka beginning July 1.

I have learned a lot from Judy and her ministry at Resurrection. She is passionate about care for each person, the environment and dialogue among persons of different faiths. Through her example, she has helped me to be able to more often ask the discerning question, “What is mine to do?”

Judy has also helped me to better understand this portion of Jesus’ teaching:

One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

Mark 12:28-31, TNIV

Judy has taught me that you cannot love your neighbor without first loving yourself. One is called to have a healthy self-understanding before being sent out to be in relationship with others.

Judy, thanks for all that you have done and all that you are going to do.

It is Hard to Care

I had a conversation with a staff member in the hallway this afternoon that was too good not to share. I had been thinking about a conversation that I had just had on the phone and he could tell that I was a bit troubled. He stopped and asked how I was doing. I said that I was doing okay but was a bit troubled by the phone conversation. He responded,

It is just hard to care sometimes.

I started laughing out loud.

  • What I heard was – It is hard to care about other people, it is better and easier just not to care.
  • What he meant was – At times it is hard to share in the hurt of people’s lives and care for them.

Hearing the first and then realizing the second really made me laugh, which is good.

Leadership Under Constraints – Review

This is a review of the document Leadership Under Constraints (PDF Document) by Gil Rendle. This document was initially presented at The United Methodist Way: A Convocation that took place in 2007.

Main Themes

This essay provides:

“… a perspective on the current setting and challenges of leadership within the United Methodist Church from the lens of systems theory and organizational sciences.”

Rendle addresses the current state of the structure of the United Methodist Church and clearly evaluates the leadership strengths and weaknesses of the denomination. Adaptive leadership is over technical management at each level of the denomination.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Rendle states several assumptions in the denomination including that of scarcity, egalitarianism, representative democracy, harmony and entitlement. I found this to be a strength of the paper as it speaks a difficult word to denominational leaders while accurately describing reality. Another strength is the leverage points to be able to move forward.

Relevance to The United Methodist Church

The United Methodist Church was the target audience and I found this essay to be relevant in all areas of content.

Relevance to The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection

This document is relevant to Resurrection both as a United Methodist congregation, but also in particular ministry areas. I believe that there is great application within my particular ministry – Congregational Care.

Recommendation

I highly recommend this document to all leaders within The United Methodist Church both lay and clergy.