Discernment

All About Call

churchgal has a post about women and ministry in which she responds to a commenter who believes the pastorate is restricted to men by the Bible. She asks: “especially those of you other church gals out there in seminary or leading congregations or in ministry: if God didn’t call you to ministry, who did?”

From the time I was a little girl I felt called to a life in the church, felt certain it would be not just something I attended but something I lived. As a little Southern Baptist girl, I imagined myself growing up to marry a minister. I was in college before someone suggested I might want to consider the possibility that the call I wanted to believe my boyfriend had was in fact my own. At that time (about 1980), I had never heard of an ordained woman.

Some years later, after having two children, I began to dream, I kid you not, of the Parable of the Talents, night after night after night, waking and pondering it over and over in the wee, small hours. Around the same time, I was invited to help with a Communion Service at church and sat behind the table with the pastor. It struck me that all my life I had been sitting all around sanctuaries: front, back, middle, choir loft, balcony, never quite knowing where to settle, restless. That day, at the table, I had a feeling of being, finally, in the right place.

When, after a few years of seminary, I withdrew, uncertain that I was willing to go further, the experiences that led me back were again a dream and a moving experience serving Communion. The dream got me back to school, but I still equivocated. Perhaps I could be a pastoral counselor, or should change degree programs and get an M.A. in Psychology and Religion. I was afraid of being a parish minister, afraid of being single with three children and never having a personal life again.

It was Labor Day weekend, and I was preaching at Big Church, where I had been a member for many years. The church’s Elder Chaplain was the “real” minister doing Communion that day. He called the week before and asked if I would like to help him? I said, “Oh, I don’t know. It’s been a while, and I’m not sure…” As if he heard something in my hesitancy, with the leading of the Holy Spirit, he answered, “That’s all the more reason to do it.” And so that Sunday I found myself standing beside him, holding the cup as the congregation came forward for Communion by intinction. Is there anything more intimate? As I stood there holding the cup for so many people I knew so well, I felt myself in a shaft of light as high as heaven and as deep as the center of the earth, as old as creation and as new as that morning. Tears filled my eyes, and a warm flush came over me.

I didn’t preach a particularly stunning sermon that day. But I could no longer deny God’s call to a sacramental ministry.

I’m not sure I really understand Process Theology, but I do believe that God’s creation is in a constant state of evolution. God is calling women to ministry; denying it is trying to hold back the ocean with a wall made of sand.

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