“For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands.”
Paul, 2 Timothy 1:6
As I went through last week’s Annual Conference (the yearly gathering of United Methodists from a particular geographic area, in my case Western North Carolina – aka the best Annual Conference), I was continually reminded of the many people, places, and experiences that were important during my journey towards ordained ministry.
I was reminded especially of:
- Karen, who invited me to Youth Disciple;
- Gloria, my youth pastor, who made sure I felt welcomed even though I didn’t know a lot of the kids in the group; she tried to tell me I was going to be a pastor years before I even began to study matters of faith and theology;
- Marc, who showed me the importance of living the faithfulness and trust that we proclaim as pastors;
- Phillip, who introduced me to “the process,” and walked with me when I stumbled;
- College professors like Warlick and Norwood and Akinade, who helped me learn that there were other ways to be Christian than being a narrow-minded fundamentalist;
- Dr. Stoneking, who was wise enough to advise me to pursue an M.Div at a place that taught me to think with the Church rather than outside of or against her;
- Seminary faculty like Smith and Campbell, who taught me to think deeply about the Christian faith while not treating their students like machines on an assembly line;
- Drew and Kirk and Mike, who taught me the day-to-day of work of ministry in its pure, unvarnished beauty. They taught me to love the local church, in/through/with/despite its failures;
- Mike, who told me I could be a pastor when I wasn’t remotely convinced;
- Dr. Phillips, a professor who played a pastor when necessary;
- My parents, who have been my cheerleaders the whole way, and told me from a young age – with no evidence to speak of – that I was a leader;
- Brittany, who has supported me more kindly than I deserve, even though she often loses out to the vocation. She has carried me through the valleys and kept me from being conceited on the mountaintops.
Most of all, I found myself continually marveling at the Triune God for his bounteous, unending, surprising grace. His strange, unmerited call is the chief reason I now find myself as an Elder in the United Methodist Church. That grace was mediated to me through various means – worship, prayer, sacrament, service – and the people and places that have graced my journey. Thanks be to God.