Wednesday, September 06, 2006

It's time for school...

for me as well as the kids. I've been in school for a very long time, or so it seems.

The United Methodist Church is different than other denominations, in some ways. When I was Baptist (oh so long ago), to become an ordained pastor, the only authority you had to appeal to was your own congregation. No education, no Board of Ordained Ministry, no nothing. Of course, it was expected that you would continue to grow and learn and what not. But few (if any) hoops to jump through.

The Lutherans have strictly defined hoops. Three years of seminary, field ed and then an internship year. Very structured. Thats beginning to appeal to me.

The UMC most definitely has hoops. Although to get started on the path to pastorhood, it really doesn't take very many jumps. I went to License to Preach school with some very fine people -- some of which hadn't even finished college, much less seminary. They became Local Pastors and the LPs of our church do a lot of good. They take churches in the rural areas that just simply couldn't afford a seminary trained pastor. They take churches that a seminary trained pastor probably WOULDN'T take. Most of them really know where the rubber hits the road. I hear that there are conferences that are 70 percent (or higher) Local Pastors.

Then there are the Student Pastors -- I think that's what I'm considered at the moment, although I've been appointed as a Local Pastor to my church. They are the seminary students -- most of them will become full Elders, in due time. They take churches and either go to school during the week and drive home to their church on the weekend, or they have a longish commute.

After that, we have the Deacons. This is a "terminal ordination" (as I heard it described one day.) It's a seminary trained person who feels the call to serve as a bridge between the laity and the clergy -- called to Word perhaps but not to Sacrament.

Then there are Elders. To become an elder, you must have a seminary education. You go through a discernment process with a mentor, you become certified as a candidate by the District Board of Ordained Ministry. You write bunches of papers and record a sermon or two for the Board to examine. You write some Bible studies. You have long interviews by the Board -- very long for some, just a couple of days for others. If you pass muster, you become a Probitionary Member -- you have 3 years to serve as a minister before you get ordained. Once you become ordained in a conference, you are guaranteed an appointment until you retire.

I am currently a Local Pastor and a Student Pastor. I've done the basic interviews. I'm writing the papers. I'm doing the school work. I have taken it really slow, but I'm getting tired of school. I have learned so very much by serving a church at the same time I have gone to school. But I'm getting tired of school. This is my 6th (or 7th??) year of school past my undergrad work -- my 5th at Candler. I just feel ready to move on.

So I've prayed (imagine that!) and contemplated what to do this semester. If I take a full load this semester and next, I can graduate. I may not get the grades I'm used to getting -- but I can graduate. I may not finish all the ordination papers this year, but I can graduate. I will have to really cut back the hours I do at church (which has already happened b/c of CPE), but I can graduate.

My first class today had 8 (eight) books of required reading -- over 1200 pages. If the other classes are the same, I'm going to be reading a lot, but I can graduate.

Y'all pray for me. I need it. The next few months will be grueling, but I will be able to graduate.

No comments: