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connectional


it has been a few days now since i received the call from the board of ordained ministry saying words that sounded like liquid gold coming through the phone: "the board voted yes." when i wrote on wednesday, i really hadn't had a chance to reflect very much, and in some ways i still haven't reflected all that much as i've mostly been just kind of floating through life the last few days. i feel like an enormous pressure has been taken off and that even simple things like walking feel much more fluid and natural now. i feel lighter.
so in many ways i'm still just getting used to the idea that i don't have to go to a monthly PSP meeting or meet with my subcommittee regularly or find ways to concisely and cogently write down my theology for the board to read. i'm still just getting used to the reality that the evaluation is over. i don't think it has completely sunk in yet.
but i have done some reflecting on this, and there is one thing in particular that i want to make sure i remember before i forget (if only i could remember more things before i forget - this is what some psalms [such as psalm 105] urge us to do).
the united methodist church is a connectional church. this is part of our polity. it is just part of who we say we are: we are not just individual congregations who all belong to a club or federation, but we are deeply and vitally connected as individuals and as local churches. now we could certainly argue about the pros and cons of such a system, but i, for one, am deeply grateful that i am being ordained into such a connection. i could talk about many reasons why, but my interview process earlier this week actually allowed me to live it out rather than talk about it.
as i shared earlier, the interview process tends to feel more like spanish inquisition than discernment of call. there were 22 or so of us candidates there for this 'torture' and many of them are individuals who i have journeyed with over the last 3-7 years. through all of the meetings, through all of the hoops, through all of the stress and anxiety, we have journeyed together. and it is a rag-tag group of us, to be sure. we are racially diverse, men and women of different backgrounds with vastly different gifts and graces. some of us have had previous careers. some of us have resisted this call for a long time. some of us speak english as a second language. some of us went to conservative seminaries. some of us went to drew (absolutely not a conservative seminary). some of us have assembly of God roots, some of us have been methodists all of our lives and others are former catholics. we are diverse to say the least.
and yet there i was. on the last night of the interview process, lying in my short little camp bed, just a few feet from my roommate who was also lying in his bed. the beat up lamp on the nightstand between us was still pushing light into the small cold room. i was a tempest of emotion. i had experienced both success and failure during the previous 36 hours, interviewing both well and poorly. my body had no more adrenaline to produce, and my mind could find nothing to do but fret and think the same thoughts over and over, as if stuck. and as i laid there, pretending to be ready to try and go to sleep, manuel (man-u-EL), my roommate, asked if i would like to pray together before we went to sleep. i heard myself say yes. and we began to pray. and as we prayed, i realized something:
i am in a camp somewhere in new jersey in a tiny little room with a cuban-american man praying about our futures together as ministers. this is a miracle! how did i come to be here?
you see, i could have interviewed by myself. or i might not have had to interview at all, but i could have received my ordination through the mail, and went on preaching and pastoring all by myself at a church somewhere. but that's not how it works for us united methodists, and i'm glad for it. we are committed (covenanted) to connectionalism. we get roommates. roommates who speak spanish as their primary language. rommates who, when you are drowning in worry but too proud to admit it, ask you if you'd like to pray.
yes, we are a connectional church. and its true that there are moments and meetings when that seems like more of an obligation than an opportunity. but there are also moments, lamplit moments, dark-night-of-the-soul moments, when those connections are just what you need to have enough peace-that-passes-understanding to close your eyes with enough courage to face another day. thank you, manuel, for praying with me. thank you, united methodist church, for holding fast to this connectionalism.

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