I’m going to interrupt my blogging hiatus briefly to write two posts. The first one will be on the anniversary of my ordination and the second will be some reflections on Cuba.
Today is the seventh anniversary of my ordination. This isn’t something typically commemorated, but most of my friends seem to remember their date. The last couple of years, as I’ve been away from the church, I haven’t felt much like recognizing this day, but for this year feels different. I think it is a milestone worth recognizing.
I was ordained to the position of temporary supply pastor of the Presbyterian Church of Mt. Washington in Pittsburgh, PA. It was an amazing service. My mentor Saleem preached. My friend Matt gave a charge. My friends and family were there. I served communion for the first time. It was incredibly meaningful. We had a reception at the Urban Mountain Gathering Place atop the church that had a great view of the city. Because it was my ordination, there was good beer. It was during the reception that we told some people closest to us for the first time that we were expecting. The whole day was covered in joy.
My process had been long and challenging. My liaison to my presbytery was non-responsive. The committee on preparation for ministry seemed annoyed that I went to San Francisco Theological Seminary instead of the “perfectly good Presbyterian seminary right here in Pittsburgh”. Can’t tell you how many times I heard that phrase. I questioned a great deal about whether or not I would go through with the ordination process. I considered dropping out of the MDiv program, finishing an MA and going into the academy. I considered switching denominations. It was stubbornness more than anything that kept me going. I wasn’t, at that point, going to let any tell me that I couldn’t live out this calling that had been there since my youth and that I was working so hard to bring to fruition.
Yes, being a pastor is something that I always wanted. It was the first thing I ever wanted to be. Church has always been one of the places where I have felt most comfortable, where my gifts have been affirmed, and where I felt like I wasn’t just an oddball. I have, from a young age, felt competent in church. I’ve had very little experience just going to church. I’ve always found ways to be really involved. Throughout middle and high school I lead a puppet ministry at church near my house. I’m not very good at just sitting in a pew. Church has always felt like a place to be involved and where I had something unique (not better, just unique) to bring to the table.
I reflected on these things as the pastor of the Presbyterian church in Cabaiguan, Cuba shared his story of call. There were some major differences in our story, but some real similarities. I was struck again by how important our own personal “call narratives” can be.
I haven’t been allowed to serve in a church since February of 2014. I broke a trust of the church that had massive repercussions. As frustrating as this process has been I ultimately became Presbyterian because of the accountability for pastors that was built into our system. I would be two-faced if I praised our accountability in theory and shunned it in my personal life. I am hopeful that my disciplinary period will be over soon.
Despite everything that has happened, I still feel called. Maybe that call has morphed and changed. I thought I would serve the church in one capacity, it may end up being a very different capacity. I still feel very drawn to serving God and serving God’s church to the extent that Her church serves the world. So today, I don’t celebrate a particular event that happened at a little church in Pittsburgh, despite how joyful that event was. Today, I celebrate a call that has been upon my life for as long as I can remember. Yes, I have fought that call at almost every juncture in my life, but that call is persistent and it has shaped me. So I celebrate my call to serve. May I be of use to God’s church as God’s church is in service to the world. Amen.