Remember Your Baptism

Last weekend I had the first of my “graded” sermons, where our Senior Pastor reviews my theology against a checklist he has of points I was supposed to hit. We do this so I can be prepared for my papers and oral boards that I will need to do down the line for provisional and ordained elder status, so I can get a preview of what’s likely to come up.

The topic for this one was baptism, as we remember the Baptism of the Lord on the second Sunday this month. I talked about how we can remember our baptism, but we can’t be rebaptized…and it has to do with the fact that God is the one acting in baptism, and we believe God doesn’t make mistakes, so there’s no need for a do-over.

If you’re curious: I didn’t have the full checklist ahead of time, so I was flying a little blind, and it turns out I hit each of the pieces. But I also did make a couple of statements that, misheard, could have opened me to cross-examination by the board. But that’s why we do these, to practice and to get ready for the real thing!

Click here for the Livestream page, and select January 12; or click here for the audio-only version of it. And let me know what you think!


One More Step

This past Thursday night I took another step along the road towards the pastorate. One of the requirements in the United Methodist Church is for the local church, at its annual business meeting, to certify a candidate for ordination that it wishes to sponsor. This week, I had the rare privilege of being in that situation.

The District Superintendent, Jeff, was there for the annual charge conference, which is what it’s called, and he ran the meeting, including the time to ratify me. When that came, he explained the uniqueness of this proceeding, before supervising a written ballot vote whether to put me forward. I am humbled and honored to have had the support of all 44 church members present and voting that night. (Yes, apparently, Mary voted for me too.)

When the vote was announced, Jeff called me forward and everyone had a chance to lay hands on me and he led a blessing. I was touched, and moved, by the love and support of the congregation, and the unanimous vote really affirmed for me how much people are behind me, and apparently how much of a “duh!” this is to everyone.

There’s a few steps more to go before certification this winter. I have to complete my mentoring cycle, which will take me to January I expect; I have to review the results of my psychological testing, which will probably be next month sometime. And I have some essays to write about fundamental theological questions. But I’m thinking I will have achieved certified status by spring.

Then what?

Baby Steps

Lead me through the darkness / Lead me through the unknown / Oh, lead me, Holy Ghost. (MercyMe, “Ghost”)

I’ve written before about my very much ongoing efforts at discernment, to determine if perhaps I am being called into ordained ministry after five decades on this planet. I guess it’s time for an update.

Over the past couple of months I’ve started private mentoring and counselling sessions with my pastor, to try to gain insight into what’s going on. They’ve been very helpful sessions, which have explained some things and given me other things to think about.

At this point, it seems to me, that there’s enough “there” that I need additional help in working through the prospective call. And so I have taken the first steps down that path, by submitting my name (and the first bits of paperwork) to begin the formal process of discernment in the United Methodist Church.

When I hit Send on that email, I had a sense of reassurance, that this was the right thing to do. My first hurdle will be the District Committee on Ministry interview, which could be later in the spring; they will either pass me along and assign me a mentor to undergo the discernment exercises, or tell me I’m not ready. I find myself hoping to be passed along to the next stage. We’ll see.

If I were to go through with this, it could be another decade (!) before ordination. Lots of work to do between now and then, and that’s a bit intimidating. But it hasn’t scared me off yet. On to the next stage.