For two and a half years, I have been serving a congregation faithfully as a provisional elder in the United Methodist Church. And on June 6, I will be ordained at our Iowa Annual Conference and I will become an elder in full connection.
This whole process started back in 2002, when I was a junior in college. The process is fairly long, with a lot of hoops to jump through, but each one of them are designed to help provide me and other candidates with encouragement and to help us to clarify our calling.
So I went through the “red book” and was assigned a mentor. And together we sorted our way through the “blue book” – a spiral bound monster of a book that talks about biblical history, asks you to examine your family and your culture.. When I completed that study I became an inquiring candidate for ministry.
Then came the “purple book.” My mentor and I continued to discern and refine my calling and I knew that seminary was in my future. So I became a certified candidate for ministry, approved by the Pastor-Parish Relations committee of my home church, and headed off to Nashville in 2004.
For those who want to be ordained, a masters degree in divinity (or theological studies for deacons) is a requirement. At Vanderbilt Divinity School, I still planned on becoming a deacon and was trying to figure out what that might look like. But my experiences serving a church and especially participating in the sacraments led me to realize that my true calling was to be ordained as an elder.
The next step in the process was to be commissioned. I submitted a written exam, a bible study that I had prepared and video taped sermons that I had presented in Nashville. And then I had an interview with a team from the Board of Ordained Ministry here in Iowa. In 2007, I was commissioned as a provisional elder in the United Methodist Church and when I graduated that December from seminary, I came here to Marengo!
According to our Discipline, I must be in residency for at least two years before I can be fully ordained as an elder. So that is what these past two and a half years have been for me. I have learned so much from you and I couldn’t have asked for a better placement. This past December I submitted again a written exam and examples of my preaching and teaching (which totaled 40 pages!) and on April 8th I was approved for ordination.
So what comes next? What changes now that I am being ordained?
Nothing! Absolutely nothing. God willing, I will remain serving my church in the same capacity that I have been. There are a few things that I will get to do, like serving the sacraments outside of my congregational context, but for the most part, I will continue doing what I have been all along.
And I am so excited to jump through that last hoop =)