There’s nothing like going through the ordination process to realize that it’s really NOT about you.
There are peer covenant groups, mentors, lay people, deacons, elders, local church pastors, district committees, conference staff, and other people all along the way to help guide you through the process.
Before you even get to the papers, there are classes to take (and pay for), people to meet with to further discern your call (and make sure you’re not crazy, literally). As you begin writing commissioning papers, there are professors’ notes and books from your favorite (and not so favorite) classes that you sift through a million times to find that one quote or thought you kind of remember. Through the provisional period, there’s the Residency in Ordained Ministry (RIOM) group to help you reflect theologically on your practice of ministry and to provide support and care for you – celebrating in the good times, mourning in times of deep sadness. And then there’s the Full Connection papers (which honestly, for me, provided strength and a renewed passion to continue in ministry, as I was struggling to adjust to a new church and transition from a difficult move); so humbling to reflect on all the people I had ministered alongside during my provisional period and realize just how much God had done through us.
[Not to mention, of course, allllllllll the people who helped you realize your call before even entering into the process…Sunday school teachers, handbell/choir directors, youth ministers, parents, grandparents, and other family, friends; people you met while traveling the world, and people in your own community.]
At Wednesday night’s clergy session, after answering the historic Wesley questions that the Bishop asked us, my ordination class and I heard roughly a thousand people say “YES” to accept us into full connection.
I wouldn’t think it too farfetched to think there are more than a thousand people who have been part of my call to ministry and this ordination process…way too many to name. But I can at least name the churches I’ve been a member of, worked with, or volunteered with (not counting mission trips) since birth:
St. Andrews UMC, Pensacola, FL (where my parents were married and where my grandfather served as church council chair – whose gavel I have on my desk in my office at church)
Pace UMC, Pace, FL (where I was baptized, along with my mother)
St. Mark’s UMC, Mobile, AL (where my dad served as Youth Director, where Brother Jesse embodied, “let the little children come to me,” and where Ms. Paulette saw the gift of music in me nurtured it)
Concord UMC, Farragut, TN (where my family was active while I was in 4th-9th grades; where my youth director Jane taught me to wear deodorant and the importance of missions; where I played in my first praise band as a middle schooler, and where Ann, Alan, and Wendel were a dream team of musicians to further nurture my musical talents)
First UMC, Morganton, NC (where my family was active while I was in 9th-11th grades; where I began the candidacy process with Holly as an amazing female clergy mentor; where I got the opportunity to lead music for our district youth events; where Jim and Tracy led us on various life-changing mission trips)
Christ UMC, Drexel, NC (where I had my first job as a pianist for the early service and worked with the youth praise band)
Fair Grove UMC, Thomasville, NC (where my husband served as Christian Education Director and where the Lucy Girls helped me realize how awesome the United Methodist Women are)
And those that I’ve already written about:
What is now considered The Village Church at Pfeiffer University
Archdale Friends Meeting, Archdale NC
Archdale UMC, Archdale, NC
Konnoak Hills UMC, Winston-Salem, NC
Fairfield UMC, High Point, NC
Northbrook UMC, Northbrook, IL
Oak Hill UMC, Morganton, NC
Know that I carry you with me as I go to be ordained tomorrow night, feeling the humbling cloak of all of your prayers and encouragement; filled with gratitude for the way that you have shown me compassion, forgiveness, grace, mercy, patience, and love; inspired by the way that you minister to one another and to your communities and encouraged by the way that you love God and neighbor.