Because I grew up in a tradition that does not ordain, per se, at least not as a formal process, I have several friends within the Churches of Christ that who be curious about my ordination, why I feel called to ordained ministry, where my sense of call comes from, and some of the inner workings of the whole process in general.
Each Baptist church has its own kind of formula for ordaining a minister, and ours was this: first, the pastor asked the deacons to consider entering into a formal process of ordination with me, and they agreed so I was observed in ministry work (pastoral care day to day, preaching, etc.) for 3 months. Then, an ordination council was formed (all of our deacons, any emeritus deacons, our pastor and my church history professor from seminary and friend, Pam). The council will meet with me on Friday (tomorrow!) and hear my story and if they affirm the call of God I feel on my life as well, they will recommend ordination and the congregation will vote at the church conference on 1/25. After that, my ordination service will be set.
As part of my meeting with the council tomorrow, I was asked to reflect on and answer several questions. A 7 page document comprises my answers to the questions and I’ve decided to turn it into a blog series, mainly for my CofC pals – my North Atlanta Church family travels this journey with me too.
The first section is about the faith journey.
Faith Journey: Beginnings, Turning Points and Next Steps
I think my spiritual journey began the day I was born. I’ve always felt God’s presence with me and I think God’s guidance in my life started when my birth mother opted to give me the chance for a better life. I was adopted by the greatest parents I could have hoped for, and raised in a Christian home as a missionary kid (MK) and a preacher’s kid (PK).
I spent my childhood trying to find a balance between being a good MK/PK and discovering and expressing my own voice.
Finding my voice has always been hard for me. In elementary school, I was diagnosed with ADHD and dyscalculia – a math processing disorder. When my 4th grade teacher told me in front of the whole class that she thought I was stupid, I believed her and became quiet and reserved for a very long time.
It took me until I was almost done with seminary to finally and fully embrace that I had things to say – and a lot of them were good, important things. My introduction to preaching class started a journey of setting my voice free, and finding my real identity – that had been hidden deep down somewhere since the 4th grade.
Influences on my spiritual journey
I met Gwen Brown in May of 2012. I mentored with Gwen for about 2 years, and toward the middle of my second year with the Cornerstone congregation, Gwen approached me and matter-of-factly announced that it was time to start thinking about my ordination. Gwen had this way of knowing things about people. She and I had a lot of conversations about ministry, and she would listen to my plans to be a hospital chaplain and each time, she would mention something about congregational ministry.
Gwen agreed that I was well-suited for chaplaincy, but she knew, even before I did, that I was better suited for congregational ministry. She gave me my first opportunity to preach in a real sanctuary, behind a real pulpit. And she showed me how to have a good conversation with someone, without having all the answers. She taught me how to show people the love of Christ.
In August of 2013, the day I started my residency at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, I got word that Gwen had died.
Gwen’s influence in my life and her belief in me and my ministry talents, along with preaching and a new found confidence in who I am as a person and as a child of God have been the major turning points in my spiritual life so far. After my first preaching class, though I was petrified that 4th grade was going to happen all over again, I felt a shift in my relationship with God and it was a very humbling experience to feel like my childhood insecurities about myself had been redeemed in some way, and that those experiences were things that could be used to support a life of ministry, instead of getting in the way.