As I came home from my ordinand retreat, I sat in the Chicago O’Hare Airport pondering on this long journey towards ordination and the church I am committing my life to. Jeff Mickles, the chair of the Virginia Conference Broad of Ordained Ministry, reminded the 32 of us who will be ordained that ordination is the next step in our call. We are moving from disciples to apostles, from people who are learning to those who are sent out. We move from being the students to becoming the teachers. Ordained persons in the United Methodist Church live into a different call from local pastors and even provisional members.
As I sat in the airport I pondered on my life in the church up to this point and why I so deeply love such a broken and flawed denomination.
I remember sitting in Lew Parks UM Doctrine and Polity class, learning for the first time that ordained elders had a security of appointments. I remember being shocked that after I was ordained I would always be given a church to serve if I wanted to serve. It seemed strange to know that the only job I would ever do, ever qualify to do, was a job I could not lose. I remember feeling uncomfortable with the weight of that knowledge.
I also remembered the clergy women’s consultation I attended two years into my first appointment. I was shocked to come out into the lobby and find doors lined up, with a silent witness from the LGBT community. As I listened to one of the Bishops (I don’t recall who now) preach about people standing outside the doors and knocking, it was the first glimpse I had really had of the pain our church has caused some.
I remember my first time as an Annual Conference delegate. I was a district young adult representative and had never been before. I poured over my Book of Resolutions for weeks trying to understand what all this meant and how I was supposed to figure out how to vote.
This process has been hard. I have at times wondered why I was doing it, if the church really wanted me, if I was meant to be here. I faced hard questioning about my abilities and my knowledge. I faced my learning disabilities and what they meant as I serve a church. There were times I raged against the hoops, that I sobbed because of the hurts, that I tried to speak for change. There are also the friends I have made, the hurts that have been healed, the hope I have found because of this process.
I face a church that no longer has security of appointments (although in fairness I have to say the process to be unappointed is one that is both fair and thoughtful to both the church and the pastor…read the legislation). It is a church where there are still those outside the doors. It is a church that still under-equips both pastors and small churches.
It is the church who has helped shaped me to be who I am since I answered my call at the age of 14.
It is the church I will try to faithfully serve.
It is the church in which God will shape me to become whoever He needs me to be.
Together, we will walk, struggling and striving to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.