Hello! From the Book of Ephesians 4:12, we hear these words, “For the equipping of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ.”
One of the joys of my job is the invitation to gather with clergy and authorized ministers from Associations across the conferences. And when we gather, we listen to scripture, we talk about interpretations of that scripture. We discuss wonderings of theology and spirituality, and sometimes we start to remember how things used to be. Not in the ways that lead us to idolize or romanticize what was, but to critically think through trends of the past and to tease apart our role in those trends, as well as the church’s role.
And it wasn’t all that long ago, at one of these gatherings, that the group started to get really curious about the last flux of pastors that emerged out of our conferences. Folks were reminiscing about internships, about gatherings that seemed to facilitate a real generative spirit in terms of ministry seed planting, if you will. And we talked about key figures within the conference that had a gift for seeing and drawing out skilled ministers. And in all that reminiscing, we wondered when such a flux might come about again. And I don’t have answers to that wondering, but I want to invite you all to wonder with me.
I know for myself, I was 16 and a part of a drumming group called Sheltered Reality that used to travel to Midwestern churches and schools to play the drums and to raise awareness about the foster system and homelessness. But it was at an Iowa church in the southeast corner of the state where we were bunking for the night. And as I was setting up my sleeping bag in one of the pews, the minister of this particular church sat in the pew right in front me. And she asked the typical adult to teenager question, “What do you want to do when you grow up,” or something to that effect.
And I talked about a lot of the things that at the time I was passionate about, and then I landed with some kind of psychological field being my main interest, to which she said, “Have you ever thought about being a pastor?” And that is such a simple statement. And yet, friends, it opened doors that I honestly didn’t even know were available to me. And I tell that story because I believe that most of us have similar stories of a human, not necessarily a pastor, but maybe, that was in our lives or that stepped into our lives for a moment, that helped us to pay attention, that woke a calling within us that we might have felt, but didn’t fully understand, or that opened our eyes to a path that might have felt forbidden.
I tell that story, because February 27th is a Sunday dedicated to seminarians and to church vocations in general. And my hope is that for all the folks called to ministry who are listening to this, my hope is that you might take time to wonder who impacted your calling into ministry. Who helped to nudge you, to support you, to encourage you, to find financially assist you, to offer advice and to deconstruct alongside you, and then to rebuild the foundations of who you are? And my hope would be that you also wonder about how you might offer those things. And for all the folks not called to ministry, but for sure, sitting and listening to this with a heart that leans toward the ministry of the church, my hope is that you might wonder who you will nudge, who you will support, who you will encourage, who you will financially assist, who you will offer advice to and deconstruct alongside and rebuild the foundation with.
There are a lot of ways that we can live into seminary and church vocation Sunday on February 27th. But I want to be sure to name that in each of our conferences, we have special funds set up for the future spiritual leaders in our churches. In South Dakota, it’s the Scholarship Fund. In Nebraska, it’s the Nebraska UCC Clergy of Color Fund. In Iowa, it’s the Funding Future Leadership Scholarship for Ministry Preparation. And I would encourage you to visit the conference’s website at ucctcm.org, to learn more about those funds and to donate as a way for us to embody Ephesians 4:12, “The equipping of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ.”