It had been there a while. I could not remember at what point it emerged. In some ways I think it had always been there, I had always known.
And then there was that moment when I was 12. It was the practice of our congregation to allow children at age 12 to read scripture during worship. I remember anticipating that 12 birthday and how excited I was when soon thereafter I received my first reading assignment. I do not remember the passage, I do remember standing before my congregation barely seen behind that pulpit and reading God’s word to them. I believe this was the moment when I knew! God was calling me to be a proclaimer of this word!
Life happens though. Like many other pastor’s kids I let my own experience (painful at times) of my father’s pastoral work to make me forget that moment. By the time high school came I was sure that the last thing I wanted to be was a pastor.
The church remained faithful to their calling. They supported me in immeasurable ways, gave me opportunities for leadership and saw gifts in me that I could not see in myself at the time. Discernment was a communal experience.
I could write pages on the next few years as I went into college, majored in religion, left the church (in spirit although not in body) and then found my calling again at a different congregation, this time in The United Methodist Church. At each of these turning points the community of faith continued to call, continued to be God’s voice, continued to give me opportunities to experience leadership in a christian community.
It has been a little over four years since I finished seminary. It seems like just the other day that I walked on the campus of Candler School of Theology, it seems like an eternity! Since then I have pastored, first as an associate and in the last year as a solo pastor of a rural congregation. It has not all been easy but there is not a day that I am not reminded that this is what God has called me to do!
The process took time. There were many forms to fill out, many interviews, many assignments, many conversations. At each step there were opportunities for continual discernment and exploration. Opportunities to hear God’s voice calling again.
God calls all of us. Us with different gifts, abilities, and life stories. God calls us to faithful proclamation and active engagement for the life of the world. Some are called to leadership in christian communities, around table & bath, around towel and basin. These are the cornerstones of ordained ministry.
Sometimes I still feel like that twelve year old. Am I tall enough for the pulpit, for the table, for moments of holy conversation? At these times I remember the church gathered on that day long ago, their smiles, their attention, their knowledge that God was calling.
That same God still calls each day! Discernment never ends!
P.S. If you are exploring a call to ordained ministry please consider attending Exploration 2009!