Nov

2

The Candidate You WON’T Hear Much About

3:10 am · category: Uncategorized

It’s somehow fitting that I’m explaining all this on the eve of an important election, when so many of us are thinking about presidential candidates and others vying for public offices. But I’m hoping that it will help explain my situation to Cindy and the few former students I have who follow my blog. So here goes.



In the United Methodist Church, a person must have been a member of the church for two years or more before s/he begins formally pursuing ordination. I joined the UMC in June 2002, and yet I felt the call to ordained ministry only about six weeks later. Not one to waste time, I immediately enrolled in seminary.



But because of the two-year membership requirement, I didn’t officially become a candidate for ministry in the UMC until July 2004. At that point I was fewer than six months away from finishing the required seminary degree for some UMC ministers, which I’ll complete in December. There are at least three different “levels” of candidates in the UMC ordination route, and I have, at this point, fulfilled some requirements in all of those levels.



I met with my district superintendent (DS), who is pretty much responsible for pastoral appointments in the UMC (Technically, that’s the bishop’s job, but the bishop really just approves such based on the recommendation of the DS) last week. We had a nice, long talk, in which I enumerated the many reasons why I would like to receive an appointment when they are next made in mid-2005.



My desire is based on several precepts. First and foremost, I want the experience in a pastoral/parish setting that I think will further illuminate my gifts and abilities and help me continue to discern the nature of my call. (Most of my seminary friends are already appointed to churches because they were reared in the UMC — and as such, they didn’t have to wait to fulfill the aforementioned two-year membership requirement.) Second, I desperately need a job and yet am virtually unemployable because of the unfortunate (?!?) combination of my education, experience, and rural setting. (BestBuy isn’t exactly raring to hire someone with several degrees when they know that person will most likely leave as soon as s/he finds better employment; plus, my school schedule really narrows my options, scheduling wise.) Third, I’ve relished my recent opportunities in the pulpit as a lay speaker because such (a) reinforce my calling and desire to be in ordained ministry; (b) remind me of my days in public education in which I had a captive audience with which I could share my passion(s); and (c) sparked something within me that I had never really acknowledged existed — namely, my heretofore unrecognized ability to connect with people on social and personal levels. And finally, I understand that my UMC district and conference suffer from a lack of ministers — especially those with seminary training and calling — and I want to use my skills and training to minister to a congregation(s) in need.



That said, I wasn’t sure how fruitful the meeting with my DS would be. But we talked at length about my desire for an appointment and pastoral experience, and he was quite ameniable to what I had to say. He shared a lot of good advice and was supportive of my candidacy, educational pursuits, and related endeavors. I left the meeting feeling better about my future in ordained ministry than I have since I felt that initial high when I first acknowledged my call more than two years ago.



Nevertheless, I still have a lot to do to make the possibility of an appointment a reality. There’s so much paperwork that one would think I was applying for a government job. Luckily, I did most of the paperwork during the summer lull. The only major things I have left are physical and psychological exams. The only reason I’ve put these off is that I didn’t have the money for either, as the former requires tons of lab tests and the latter is just flat-out expensive no matter how you look at it. Being unemployed and without health benefits, I couldn’t possibly afford such testing. But as it turns out, the UMC will actually pay for those tests. I look forward to finishing up those and a few other requirements in the near future.



If all goes well, I will have fulfilled enough of the candidacy requirements to be eligible for an appointment when appointments are next made in June 2005. This means that I might well be pastoring a church or churches in less than half a year, and that would be a blessing I had previously imagined to be at least two years in the future.



Based on the success of the meeting with the DS and the real possibility of a not-so-far-in-the-future appointment, I “re-upped” at seminary last week and registered for classes in the spring semester. This means that in addition to completing my M.A. in religion in December, I will begin pursuing a Master of Divinity (MDiv) in January 2005. I’m excited about this because it means that I will continue to expand my knowledge base and learn more about pastoral issues. Moreover, holding an MDiv will increase the possibilities of my being accepted into a doctoral program to pursue either a PhD or EdD. Things really seem to be on track for me for the first time in quite a while, and I’m grateful for that; it is a blessing I hadn’t expected.



And on a similar note, everyone needs to get out and vote today.

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