I started sharing my call story last week. This week, I continue.
College was great! I had excellent professors who were mentors to me. B. J. Seymour, Steve Tuell, and Ira Andrews opened my eyes to the Bible and to the faith way beyond anything Sunday school had ever taught me. They also nurtured my call to ministry. They saw within me something that God was doing that I was still trying to get okay with.
My first semester at Randolph-Macon, the education class I took had us placed in classrooms to observe. We were to also teach one class. I was placed in a 7th-grade civics class. Other than my limited experience in the youth ministry at the time, I didn’t know what to do in a civics class. Give me some marshmallows or a few rolls of toilet paper, and we can play some crazy games. But civics?
Part of the project was to interview the teacher of that class. We used his lunch break as our time to talk. I spent most of my time talking to him about faith and religion than I did about education. One day he flat out told me that if had it to do again, he wouldn’t teach. The amount of time he actually got to spend on just teaching wasn’t in comparison to the amount of time he spent doing all the other stuff.
Drs. Seymour, Tuell, and Andrews all encouraged me to go to seminary. They also encouraged me in making connections between pop culture and our faith.
After graduating from Randolph-Macon College in 2004, I went straight to seminary, attending Union Theological and Presbyterian School of Christian Education, now called Union Presbyterian Seminary. My time in seminary would send me into another whirlwind of discernment. I spent a lot of time struggling with whether or not I was being called to ordained ministry. There was no doubt in my mind that God had called me to ministry, but did my vocational calling fall under the heading of “clergy?”
My mentor at the time, Mary Sue Swann, and I spent a lot of time discussing this. She would recommend that I read the book A Deacon’s Heart. Margaret Ann Crain and Jack Seymour’s words were telling me who I was in a way I had never experienced before. These words affirmed my calling to ordained ministry as a servant leader in the life of the church, being a bridge between the Word and the world.
More importantly, it introduced to me the Order of Deacon in the United Methodist Church. Mary Sue introduced to me that the image of clergy that I had – the solo pastor who preached every Sunday and “ran” the church – was not the only image the church had of the clergy. I learned that I have a deacon’s heart, longing for the healing of creation, plus mutual and connecting ministries that reach the poor and the hungry; the sick and the imprisoned; the lost and the lonely.
My last semester in seminary, however, was a tough semester. All my classes were tough and demanding classes. My workload was the heaviest it had been in all my time in seminary. After graduating in 2007, I took a year to discern if the ordained ministry was indeed where God was calling me. I felt in that last semester that I had not heard much from God on this. I audited a class that spring with Dr. Katie Cannon, whose words of wisdom helped me put things in perspective. That fall I enrolled to take three seminary courses that were required by the United Methodist Church but were not required for my Masters in Christian Education.
The rest, as they say, is history. I was ordained as a Deacon in Full Connection at the Virginia Annual Conference in June 2013.