I am here once more at the ordination service of the New England Annual Conference. Eight years ago at a service much like this one, I reconciled myself to God's call into pastoral ministry. It wasn't the first time I had felt such a call. It wouldn't be the last.
I find it hard to believe that it has been eight years since I came alive to the journey that God was drawing me into - a journey that God had been preparing me for even before I was aware of it and a journey that continues to take surprising twists and turns. At the time, I heard it as a call to pastor a local church in ordination. I had no idea that eight years later, I would find myself in Haverhill, planting a new church. I had no idea that I would have a wonderful partner in ministry and in life by my side. I had no idea about the amazing mountain top experiences and the darkest valleys that I would walk through. I had no idea the ways God would call me to sacrifice and to pour myself out for others.
It's been an amazing journey as a licensed local pastor. Lately, though, I've been reflecting on whether or not God is calling me to take that next step. I've wrestled with that thought on and off for the past few months, and inevitably annual conference, and the ordination service in particular, brings up a whole host of thoughts and feelings that beg me to say "yes! You really want to do this!"
There's the half of me that cares very much - cares about the United Methodist Church, cares about the issues facing our denomination, cares about being a part of that church as an ordained elder. And then there's the other half of me that cares about ministering in my context - something that doesn't require any additional credentialing, that cares about the local witness of my faith community, and worries about the implications of submitting myself to a broken system and placing myself as available for itinerant ministry when I feel my call is one to rootedness in the community of Haverhill, MA.
I haven't thought about how to reconcile these two halves yet. I don't know how ordination fits in, if it does at all. But it's in times like these that for some reason I remember that God's got the final say in all of this...and that maybe God's say lies in submitting myself as a servant of Jesus Christ through the United Methodist Church as an ordained elder.