Friday, July 17, 2009

I'd like to jump through the hoop a little early...

For those of you who don't speak United Methodist, I apologize in advance... but I have a frustration to share...

The UM Book of Discpline says that a certified candidate for ministry may be commissioned at the halfway point in their seminary studies. So when I realized that I would hit that point after fall semester 2009, I entertained the thought of applying for commissioning. In asking a few questions about how that would all pan out, here is a portion of the email that I received from an intentionally nameless someone who serves on the District Committee on Ministry...

"While the Book of Discipline allows persons to be commissioned prior to graduation from Seminary, West Ohio has held that since the superviesed years don't start until you graduate, there is no good reason to be commissioned while still in seminary. Once commissioned, the supervised years begin and to try to do that while being a pastor and completing your education would be a bit much."

Like going to school and doing field ed is too much? We meet at least once every two weeks with our supervisor, doing ministry and completing a whole lot of other stuff for our school work.

Like going to school and working in a church without field ed requirements is too much? Anyone who works in a church in
any capacity will tell you that being in school and working in a church is not easy. But we do it anyway, because it is what we are called and
of doing.

Plus, like a lot of other conferences recognize... if you are commissioned before you graduate school your Board of Ordained Ministry can say, "Hey, Anna, we think you are doing great ministry, but would really like to see you have more experience in counseling. Why don't you take another counseling class before you graduate." Instead of saying, "Hm... you lack some classwork... why didn't you take XYZ class while you were in seminary. We're going to wait to ordain you for another year while you get some continuing ed in that area."


Wednesday, July 8, 2009

What's being a woman got to do with it?

I have had a lot on my mind around the matter of my ministry, my gender, and my age. After reading this blog post, I think that I have finally internalized my feelings enough to verbalize them.

Reading the post about Anna Howard Shaw, I was reminded of all the things that women have had to endure for the sake of ministry, especially ordination. I am so thankful to have strong women like Anna who have blazed the trails so that I don't have so many trails to blaze of my own. Especially in working with the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women I have had the privilege and the pleasure of getting to know some of the most capable and wonderful women in the United Methodist Church. I am so proud to count myself as a colleauge, but moreso as a sister in Christ to each and every one of these women.

In working towards my own ordination, I have heard a variety of advice from many people. Some of it is quality, tidbits that I will
never forget. Some is comical. I understand that it came out of their experience, but internally I can't help but chuckle. Then there is the infuriating advice. The advice that is completely unmerited and unwanted.

The first advice I can think of from the unmerited and unwanted advice happened before a class in a casual conversation. I was speaking with an older (meaning older than myself) male classmate who is currently serving a church as a student pastor. When I told him that I would be taking a congregation of my own as a student pastor in the fall, he "so graciously" warned me about finding an older (again, meaning older than myself) woman to be a mentor, so that I could talk over the specific challenges that young women have in the ministry, especially in rural congregations.

Now, I know that some rural congregations are still not keen on the idea of having female pastors, and that some rural congregations are composed primarily of older adults. But I was very frustrated by his assumption that I would automatically face challenges that would require me to have a mentor just to talk about those specific issues. I think I was more frustrated by his assumptions of the people that I would be in ministry with. It was so unfair of him to assume that they would be old people who wouldn't respect the authority of a young, capable, woman. I know that my classmate was speaking out of protection for me, but I left the conversation feeling frustrated and belittled.

I have another colleague who I email with quite frequently regarding ministry. We share stories and experiences, frustrations and triumphs, and many other things. When this person (gender left neutral on purpose) asked me how my first few weeks at my new church went, this person was suprised that I haven't had any major issues. I told this person how people readily and willingly address me as Pastor Anna (even though it still freaks me out a little), how they ask and seriously consider my advice, and how they respect my decisions.

An example of this is that the church secretary has served as the food pantry coordinator for years. Each year she must sign a contract with the foodbank that provides our food pantry with many staple items. This contract requires the signature of the pastor, after the pastor has reviewed the contract points. I reviewd the contract, and a few of the points were not being fulfilled by our church's foodbank. It was not as a specific oversight of any one person, but I told the church secretary that I didn't feel comfortable signing this contract until the policies of the church's foodbank had been revised accordingly. The next day, new policies were set in place and the church secretary thanked me for reading the entirety of the contract before I signed. She (though she has done it "her" way for years and years) had no problem with my methods.

Yes, I am young. Yes, I am a woman. Yes, I am
qualified and capable. Yes, my church members recognize all of these points and respect me for all of them. I have had no problems thus far regarding my age and gender. Does that mean I will never have problems? Probably not.

Does being warned about problems and conflicts in advance prepare us? Perhaps... but often I think those warnings turn us on to problems and conflicts that we may not have pegged as happening because of a certain factor. I liken it to the dentist. When the dentist says, "I am going to give you this injection, you may feel a pinch and a sting," you anticipate that pinching and stinging. But if you don't know what is coming, you experience the injection just as it is, without having any notions of how it will feel.

For some people, that not knowing what you will experience is scary. I recognize that very fully. The way I function, however, is that I would like to experience everything without having my mind set on a situation or outcome in the beginning. I prefer to reflect more after the experience. My preference is no better than others, but I wonder if other young, capable women have experienced the same feelings as I have.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Well the craziness of traveling is done (for now), and I have slept off my jet lag. I have even turned in the paper for the class, writing much more than I had planned. I had about a week to just exist, which was wonderful, but by the end of the week I was ready to have something substantial to do.

And something substantial I got!! This last Sunday was my first Sunday as the pastor of the Darby Plains Larger Parish UMCs. It was a great Sunday for a couple of reasons. First, I got to spend my anniversary with my awesome husband who supports me in the ministry. I am so thankful for him in all of this. I also got to experience the love and congratulations of my parents. My dad, his wife Julie, and my mother and father-in-law were all in attendance for my first Sunday as pastor. I really enjoyed getting to know these congregation in worship and fellowship.

I spent Monday morning in the office doing some worship planning, and I also had the service of committal for a family member of my congregation. It was surreal. I am so humbled by this call to ministry. It just all seems like a dream...

A good dream that is what I am supposed to be dreaming. A dream that makes me happy and feels fulfilling, and a dream that I am blessed to have my husband, family, and friends supporting me in.