in the united methodist church the ordination process is just that: a process. it's a journey that i've been on pretty actively since 1998. i assume that very people have any understanding of that process, and most of you probably don't care to. but i also assume that not many of you understand where i am on that journey, and so i thought i would share a little bit about that today, since i am at a pretty critical juncture.
at my annual conference (the 3 or 4-day meeting of clergy and lay representatives from my whole conference which is all of new jersey) in 2005 i was commissioned as a probationary elder. that probationary status lasts at least three years. during this time i have been involved in mentoring, continuing study, and annual review. the three years will be up at this coming annual conference in june of 2008, at which time i would be a candidate for ordination.
what this means is that i have been busy this fall. there are a ton of necessary preparations in anticipation of this. there are 2 major pieces of this preparation:
first, i have been doing the 'paperwork.' for several months now i have been writing and thinking and wrestling and rewriting. this is work that will be handed in to the board of ordained ministry, the group charged by the conference with the task of helping to discern the call of people on this journey. all of this paperwork will be due at the beginning of december. it includes four sections: a series of traditional theology questions, a series of polity questions, a Bible study that i have to design and a sermon that i have to prepare, preach, and videotape. one of the biggest challenges about this paperwork is that i am given very limited space to deal with some of the most profound theological, Biblical and church-related issues. the other difficulty for me is that i feel this deeply rooted need inside me to make sure this paperwork is absolutely representative of who i am as a person and pastor. as a perfectionist, i feel like it better be nobel prize winning material. mostly, i just need to relax.
the second major piece of preparation for possible ordination in june is my interview with the board of ordained ministry (boom), which will really be a series of interviews taking place during a retreat in mid-february. during this retreat i will get to sit in 4 interviews with clergy and laypeople who will attempt to discern with me my readiness for ordination. there will be many other candidates also doing these interviews, who are at the same point in this journey as me. unfortunately, there are only so many spots available for ministers in the conference, so they have to make decisions based on the number of available spots. after the interviews, the boom will vote on each candidate. if i am not recommended for ordination, i will work to improve and go through this process again next year. if i am recommended, then i will be finally voted on at annual conference in june, and very likely ordained.
as it seems like the last 10 years of my life have been building towards this moment, you can imagine that i am pretty stressed out about it. anytime you are entering into an evaluative moment, especially when it really affects your future, it is a bit tension-producing. so, all of that being said, and now that you know what is going on with me, i would simply ask for your prayers as i continue through this process. mostly, i ask that you pray for peace for me. that i would not worry or be anxious, but would embrace this process, confident in my call, and sure that whatever happens i will continue to live out this call as faithfully as i can.