A member of St. Peter’s United Church of Christ will soon begin attending seminary, with plans for ordained ministry. There… I didn’t bury the lead. Read on.
When one accepts both the call of God and the call of a congregation to ordained ministry, it is an ordination to perform certain functions in the church and its instrumentalities, but not an elevation to a higher office or status. In other words, Pastor Amanda and me, and all other ordained folk are just ordinary mopes who happen to be called out to use the gifts God has given us to serve the church.
Ordination is the church’s affirmation of those gifts, as well as a challenge to use them for God’s kingdom. Those functions, or gifts, include but are not limited to: teaching, preaching, pastoral care, leadership, and administering the sacraments and rites of the church.
Once one says “yes” to the prospect of ordained ministry a journey on two parallel but unique paths begins. The first path involves academic life. A three-year graduate study at a seminary includes courses on the Bible, theology, church history, pastoral care and counseling, preaching and worship leadership, internships, and learning the practical
aspects of the ministry.
If all goes as planned, this results in the attainment of the Master of Divinity degree.
Although the degree of our divinity is debatable. In addition to the academic path, there is the ecclesiastical one as well. The local congregation, Chicago Metropolitan Association, state, and national expressions of the United Church of Christ also help prepare the candidate for ordination via a process of discernment. Mentors are assigned, interviews are held, psychological evaluations are administered, and one’s articulation of faith and understanding of the ministry all come into play on this path.
As a church, more particularly as St. Peter’s Church, it is incumbent upon us to provide care and support for one who is on these paths to church leadership. I am thrilled to relate to you the news that Sarah Foster has recently been accepted as a candidate for the Master of Divinity program at the Chicago Theological Seminary. At the Church Council meeting on March 19, a grant of $5,000 per year for three years was unanimously approved to assist Sarah with her seminary studies. Please join me in congratulating her, praying for her, supporting her, and walking with her on these paths.
Dr. Rich Wolf