Moving Forward: Toward Ordination
This is an update on my ordination process…and a reflection on the journey. Twenty-seven years ago I responded to the “call” to ministry by checking out the only seminary I was really interested in: Princeton Theological Seminary. Why was this the only one? It’s the only one I really had any connection to. I was, at that time, working at the Historic First Presbyterian Church in downtown Phoenix. I was working for the music department, teaching in the First Presbyterian Academy (music, theatre, Spanish, cooking, Bible, second & fifth grades), teaching adult Bible study at the church, and I was serving on session (at 22 they referred to me as the ‘younger elder.’) I experienced “the call” to ordained ministry in the midst of doing ministry. Two of my pastors at that time, Gayle and Tom Parker, were both Princeton Seminary graduates. Gayle encouraged me to look into Princeton; Tom encouraged me to look into Fuller (where he worked). Princeton seemed the better fit for me…so much so that I stayed there 13 years, earning three degrees and teaching speech & preaching for ten of those years. I enjoyed the academic environment, and got to stay connected to music as a mode of faith expression and practice.
Fifteen years ago, as I was nearing the end of my time at Princeton Seminary, I discerned that the time was not right for me to enter into ordained ministry. It was a tough decision. I was thinking that I would be teaching in theological settings. I love teaching. It’s a basic component to what I feel called to do in this life.
Since I have been at Pinnacle, I have had the opportunity to use my teaching, musical, preaching, and worship leading gifts. And in the midst of doing ministry, I discerned God saying, “Now is the time.” Pinnacle congregation and its leadership has helped me discern that the call to doing ministry has meant the fulfilling of the call to “ordination.” I am grateful for those, like Wes Avram, who have helped me listen and follow.
Three weeks ago, the Presbytery of the Grand Canyon approved me to receive a call. It was a wonderful morning, with plenty of Pinnacle people there to support me in being examined publically on my statement of faith and readiness for ministry. There was only a twenty-minute time slot allotted for this examination, but it stretched to about thirty. It was actually fun; I wanted to keep going! After 13 years of theological education I have a lot to say! (Insert cue for laughter).
In the last few weeks I’ve been asked by several people, “So, now that you’re getting ordained, does this mean you’ll be leaving us here at Pinnacle?” That’s what usually happens for Presbyterians. Things are different however in this case. What’s wonderful is that the “call” allows me to stay here at Pinnacle to continue in the ministry I do here and to expand on that ministry.
Moving to the status of “ordained” technically means that I can do two things that I am not currently permitted to do: perform baptisms and officiate at communion. Yes, I am looking forward to participating in these “ordinances” of the church, taking part in what God is already doing in our midst (I taught the course at Princeton Seminary on doing baptisms and communion for 10 years!) But being ordained means far more than presiding over ordinances. Entering into ordained ministry means, most of all, holding space for others by listening carefully, lovingly, and soulfully to others and empowering individual members of the body of Christ to embrace the ministry to which God has called them.
Ordained ministry is a trust. The community trusts that God has chosen certain individuals to lead, teach, preach, pray, and act lovingly so as to exhibit God’s love in Christ. And the ordinand holds that trust (faithfulness) in all aspects of life. What will be different after the service of ordination (currently scheduled for October)? Not much…and everything. The mantle of ministry isn’t something that is removed when one leaves the campus of the church. Ministry shapes every aspect of life. For me personally, it means that I am more accountable for everything I do. As Paul would say, “Hold every thought captive to Christ” (2 Cor 10:5). Ordained ministry means trusting that God is at work in and through the person of the ministry to guide the everyday saints of the church to fulfill their calling as “the priesthood of all believers.” It means that love is the calling and the answering of that calling, leading through service and in following Christ’s call, “Brothers and sisters, love one another” (John 13:34).