The first time I heard the term “sermon in view of a call,” I was in a seminary class called Mentoring for Congregational Ministry. I listened to the lecture, of course, knowing in my heart that it didn’t really apply to me. A sermon in view of a call is a sermon that is preached when a church is considering you as one of their ministers. Since I was on a beeline path to hospice/hospital chaplaincy or end of life bereavement care, the conversation was moot.
Here’s an interesting phenomenon about knowing things in your heart: God sees hearts and hears thoughts. She was in an impish mood the year I vocalized that preaching and church work were not in my plan. Like the playful creator that she is, God slapped me in the life with the most terrifying graduation requirement of all: preaching class.
I entered the pulpit for the first time on that rainy class day, grumpy and scared and emerged transformed. “Am I a preacher?”
I invested immediately in a habit that would consume my waking days following that pulpit transformation: the practice of carrying mini Moleskine notebooks with me at all times, and the collecting of pretentious fancy pens. I bought a sermon journal to aid in my sermon-writing process, to every preaching or spiritual writing elective that I could, and one Sunday morning post-graduation, I found myself preparing to deliver my very own sermon in view of a call. My parents had sent me an encouraging note of congratulations and pride, with some money and an admonition: “use this to buy a nice dress for your big day. Target Clearance and Old Navy are off limits. DO NOT THRIFT. Go to an actual department store. This is a big deal.”
I chose a royal blue dress with darts in the bodice and 3/4 length sleeves, and the reddest shade of lip gloss I felt comfortable wearing: almost pink. I preached in the sanctuary at Scott Boulevard Baptist Church following a reception of poppy seed muffins, which I had mentioned in my interview as my favorite food.
I seem to be incapable of not talking about food.
Unanimously, I was officially called as associate pastor, and over the next 5.5 years, made friendships cut short by death which nonetheless live on in my heart, had a significant part in developing and shaping a ministry of home worship with homebound older adults, and preached many sermons to a wonderful congregation who affirmed me in my early ministry, journeyed with me as a grew in faith, professionalism, and pulpit presence, and ordained me to the gospel ministry all the while serving in ministry with me.
On Sunday, March 8, as our merger process has entered its final stages, I will preach at Scott Boulevard, as an entity, one more time. Thankfully, it is a sermon build around the hope that we have as a congregation in the continuation and expansion of the ministry we began together. I get to continue to serve alongside these wonderful people who furnished my first apartment with a table and chairs, curtains and nice throw pillows, helped to furnish Andrew’s and my married kitchen, and are helping me to imagine greater ministry in partnership with FBCD.
This preacHer is so thankful for pulpits and legacies, for the spirit of God at work in the congregation that will be as two churches combine in ministry to become one in the bond of love, for breaths of fresh air into dry bones: the re-creation of something old into something new.
Thanks be to God.