Please note that this is a faith-based post. Nothing below is intended to disparage any faith or any church - these are only my experiences.
In January 2017 I began to worship in the United Methodist church, joined the church in the spring of that year and my life has never been the same.
I was raised in the Catholic church and quit completely in 1986 for a variety of reasons. I joined the Protestant faith (UCC) in spring of 2002 and began a new journey toward building stronger relationship with God. I had never before had the opportunity to just sit and talk about the Bible and hear interpretations from anyone other than an ordained person. I had not experienced listening to a sermon that specifically and directly helped me to see how ancient Scripture applied to my life at that moment. The Open Communion Table was critically important to me. It was a wonderful time of growth and I made friends I still love very much. As life goes, that church stopped being the right place for me and I moved on and found a new faith.
As I learned about the Methodist faith, I found so many things to love. I love the order of the Book of Discipline. I find it comforting that we are a connectional church - which means that every local church is linked to a network of churches and organizations that work together - we can do more together than we can alone. I most especially love the Open Hearts, Open Doors position my church, Aldersgate United Methodist Church, embraces. Our Communion Table is open to everyone. I have a faith family that is incredibly loving and supportive. What would be most important is how the role of the laity, from the very earliest Methodist movement, would be to me.
On July 31, 2018, while driving home from my Aunt Joyce's funeral, I received my call to ministry. I recall being extremely peaceful that day. Her funeral, while incredibly sad, allowed me the gift of spending the day with so many people I loved. Maybe it was them or maybe it was, for the first time I ever recall, we sang during a Catholic funeral...I'm not sure. But I know my heart was open and the message came. It wasn't all booming voices or craziness like on TV - it was more of a strong thought that kept going through my mind - unlike other thoughts. I wasn't sure what to make of it and shared the story with my Pastor, who knew just what was happening.
I took the exploration/discernment steps and determined that my calling would lead me down the path of Certified Lay Minister (CLM). This is not an ordained position and has no sacramental authority. The CLM is really, as my Pastor puts it, a liturgical theologian. What we can do is conduct public worship, care for the congregation, assist in program leadership, develop new and existing faith communities, preach the Word, lead small groups, and establish. "...CLMs may provide leadership in many other contexts and have responsibility for other expressions of mission and ministry both within the congregation and in the community, district, or annual conference. While CLMs can provide the essential guidance and pastoral leadership and services necessary for effective mission and ministry in churches, they are not intended to replace clergy, but rather to work beside them and with them as part of a team ministry." New England Conference: Lay Servant Ministry/Certified Lay Ministry (neumc.org)
Between June of 2019 and June of 2021, I took all of the courses I needed to take (and then some). I filled in forms, had financial and criminal backgrounds conducted, completed a psychological evaluation and interview, repeatedly reflected on my path and prayed for guidance, and finally this week, I appeared before our district Committee on Ordained Ministry. I was really nervous, but really excited. This was the go/no go meeting and ... it's a GO! It's official. After nearly 3 years and endless growth, I'm so excited to continue down this path in a new way.
What's next? I'm not sure. I will continue to serve Aldersgate as I have. I have an idea for a local prayer ministry I will be sharing with my Pastor. I will also serve where/if I am needed in our District. I am so excited to see what God has in mind for me next!
This wasn't a trip I took easily or alone. Having an incredible support system made all the difference. My husband Brad has been my biggest and best cheerleader along with my Pastor, Reverend Rachel Fisher. Danielle and Jan were my official Ministry Team. Betty is my soul sister and has been wildly supportive. Pastor Chris, who was next to me as a fellow Mass$#%^ at our discernment weekend. Darla, a teacher for several of the on-line courses I took who has become an inspiration and a friend. There are many other people who helped me along this crazy ride, and I have been blessed by each of them. In the words of the immortal Grateful Dead...what a long, strange trip it's been. And it has only just begun.
If you think you can't shift gears mid-trip I say to you...open your heart, because it's never too late to hear a new message that will change your life.