Tuesday, October 04, 2005
To Ordination ... And Beyond!!!
I am not ordained. I graduated from seminary in 2004, and there are three years from that date during which I am a "Resident in Ministry." My class and I are what United Methodists in Missouri used to call "Probationary Members of the Annual Conference" before we realized that was just a silly thing to call us. So now we are "Residents in Ministry" which we will be until June of 2007, when we will be ordained elders and deacons.
There are four components that comprise the residency process; continuing education, mentoring, covenant group, and an annual meeting with the District Superintendent. Upon successful completion of these four components (along with the intensive theological writing assignments and subsequent conferences at the beginning and the end of the process) one is ordained. Wahoo!
Individual reactions to this process are varied. One of my colleague residents this morning complained strenuously about being "forced" to have a mentor and participate in a covenant group. Although I did not see anyone locking a shackle around her ankle to keep here there, I heard a vehement resentment in her voice, as if THE MAN was keeping her down; as if one's Annual Conference actually daring to require something of its Residents in Ministry was Talibanesque oppression or something.
But deeper than my tongue in cheek response to her indignation, that kind of attitude is worrisome. The residency process is designed such that nothing required during the process should be discontinued upon completion thereof. In other words, the process ought to be formative, and instill spiritual disciplines that one will continue into ordained life in order to maintain spiritual health. Who would deny that frequent continuing education experiences, a healthy relationship with a sage mentor, maintaining a covenant relationship with a small accountability group, and ongoing communication with one's D.S. are spiritual disciplines that allow one to remain healthy throughout a life-long career in ministry?
The Annual Conference is not forcing us to do these things, the Conference is equipping us for ministry. One way to view the residency process might be as a series of hoops through which one must jump en route to the goal of ordination. Problem is, ordination is not an intrinsic goal, but rather a waystation of sorts along one's vocational journey. The things we are required to do during residency, rather than hoops, are tools we can continue to use in ordination ... and beyond!