Lets just say, it has been QUITE a long time since I last wrote, and I wish I could blame the hiatus on the chaos of seminary or the addition of new “distractions” on my life, but I must confess that time has just gotten away from me! Between work, trying to fulfill and meet the at times rigorous and demanding ordination requirements of the RCA, and just keeping my head above water when it comes to homework assignments, papers and exams, my life outside of school functions on the most basic of levels: eat, sleep, go to class, see friends on campus, repeat. Nonetheless, a whole lot has changed in the 6 or so months since I last wrote!
Firstly, as I might have mentioned previously, I am officially under care of my classis in the Reformed Church in America, and have received the support of my church and governing body to move ahead in the ordination process. While this is a huge hurdle to leap over, it also is the starting line for a whole new and multiple-year-long marathon toward the finish line that is receiving a call, getting ordained, and entering the ministry full-time. In order to get to this point, hopefully in two years’ time (once I have completed my masters degree at Princeton), I need to take 10 ordination exams, complete 3 units of field education, and at least one unit of CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education – formal chaplaincy training). Luckily for me, my ordination exams are oral, either in committee or in front of my classis, but that doesn’t lessen the amount of work I have to do in order to get there. So far, I have completed my Bible Content ordination exam (as of January 2012), and will present my Greek ord (short for ordination exam, Seminary/ministry-speak) later on this month at our next classis meeting. I could spend an entire lifetime praising and commending my classis, as they are smart, sensitive and immensely supportive of my call. In order to get ordained, the classis needs to approve of and support your call; if you don’t receive this support in the RCA, it is impossible to move further into the process. Initially, I was incredibly concerned that my call to the ministry wouldn’t be supported for a multitude of reasons, one of them being that I am a very young woman with very little real life ministry experience. However, they have been nothing but supportive and excited to usher me through the next three years. In fact, they’ve been actively helping me find visiting pastorate positions (aka Sunday preaching gigs) wherever and whenever possible. I don’t see them doing that for my fellow candidates under care! (Or perhaps I’m just proud and thus blinded by excitement, who really knows?)
This leads me to my next update! I’ve been asked to write and lead worship on March 25th at Hawthorne Reformed Church while their minister is away! Long story short, their minister was there at my last ordination exam, and was so impressed by my responses that he asked me if I would be interested in leading worship while in seminary. I thought that he would call me in a year or two, once I had gotten more experience and learning under my robe (haha ministry joke…sorry!), but instead, he calls me and asks me to take over for him! For the longest time, I worried that my gender would limit the number of preaching and leadership opportunities that would come my way in the RCA. However, I have faced the exact opposite on so many fronts! My church is still fairly traditional, despite the fact that we have the most amazing female minister on staff (a PTS grad nonetheless, I feel immensely honored to walk in her footsteps!). It is still tough for many congregations to accept the authority of a woman in the pulpit, and at times, the congregation size will dwindle as a result. However, I feel so encouraged by this blessing that is the offer of a preaching position on the 25th; it means that there is a place for me in ministry somewhere. Maybe I’m looking too much into this potentially one-time opportunity, but on the other hand, I see a call in my future. My governing body has so much confidence in my call from God and my ability to lead a congregation that they are giving me a chance to practice and grow. Regardless of the fact that I’m a woman trying to break ground in a primarily male “profession,” this is huge, and a great chance for me to kick butt and take names in the name of Jesus! Oh yeah, and preach the Gospel as well.
Another huge update is that I got another field education placement, this time a year-long placement! It is a requirement of my degree (and also for ordination) that I take 3 units of field education over my 3 years in seminary. As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, I am satisfying one unit as a hospital chaplain at University Medical Center at Princeton this summer (May through August, 10 week program); this just left 2 more units (1/semester), which needed to be fulfilled in a church-setting as per degree requirements (and denominational ones as well most likely). Even though I go to a Presbyterian Church (USA) seminary, I still had to do my church placement at a Reformed Church in order to get ordained. (Our polity and standards are different enough that it would be tough to prove the worth of doing a placement at a PC(USA) church to my classis, and I really don’t want to argue with those amazingly understanding and forgiving people!) I had all but given up on finding a placement for this year; many of the reformed churches in this area are original to the church in this country, but have fallen on hard times either financially or in congregation size over the last 10 or so years, making it impossible for them to have a field education student. (Either not enough work/hours, or not enough money to fund the position) All of a sudden, Six Mile Run popped into the picture! They had already hired someone for next year, but were willing to consider another person as well, and took a huge chance on me! So, I’ll be a minister/intern there next year, learning to preach, lead worship, give the sacraments, and everything in between! I won’t be able to perform the sacraments, as I’m not ordained (and thus, don’t have the authority to do so). But I won’t know how to until I learn, and this is where the learning begins.
Ok. Covered the New Job, the preaching gig, now the new outlook on life. Don’t worry, no existential crisis, no crisis of faith. Although, I’ve heard that seminary does do that at some point in your education. I guess my new outlook on life comes in the form of social media and one’s impact on their community. I’ve seen a lot of good and inspiration come in the form of social media (aka Facebook, twitter, YouTube, what have you). But I’ve also seen a lot of whining and complaining about how life isn’t going the way someone wants it, or they aren’t getting their way, especially on Facebook and Twitter. I sympathize, truly I do. This last year has been both the best and also at times the most difficult year of my life (the death of one of my best friends, multiple hospitalizations, biopsies, getting started at Princeton Theological Seminary, getting a job as an Admissions Host, meeting some of the most amazing people and reconnecting with a few old friends, just to name a few), but yet I have tried my hardest not to complain about any of those less than exciting and pleasurable experiences. I have tried my best to make positive from the negative, and help others to see the light in the darkness. I don’t have much power in this world, and I’m not sure that my words have the ability to make a global impact, but at the same time, they have the ability to make SOME positive change on my community. I guess what I’m trying to say is that we all have the chance to change our communities through our words and actions, and in doing so, we also stand to change ourselves. But this means that whining and complaining about how life isn’t what we want it to be MUST go on the back burner. Each voice can make a big difference in something, if only we let it. I started my blog over a year ago with the hopes of not only connecting with my friends far, far away across the globe, but also as a sounding board for some of Christianity’s toughest subjects: women in ministry, the authority of scripture, etc. I don’t have all the answers, and never expect to, even on my deathbed in 90 years (yes, I want to live until I’m roughly Dumbledore age, perhaps 600 years is a good goal?). But I know that my words can say and do a lot, and I want to give them the power to do so.
Stop bitching, be glad in the Lord. He doesn’t make mistakes in creating each of us. Sometimes we need to be silent and keep our words within us so that the Lord can speak TO us, then THROUGH us. Only speak when necessary, keep unnecessary thoughts within. Use your words and power to help impact the lives of others for the positive! We have very little individual power in this world, but we at least have the power to do this much! Why not use it?
Alrighty, until next time! Many blessings in the name of God and Jesus Christ!