I've been trying to get myself going again on the whole ordination process thing. One thing I've had to do for a long time now, which I've been procrastinating on, is come up with a call statement. Part of the reason that I've been putting this off is that it brings me face to face with a tough question, which is: am I really pursuing this vocation because I am called to it? Is this a nudging, a pulling, from God, or is it just that I like standing in front of people and talking? Because if it's the latter, then this is all a bad idea.
So I wrote a call statement. Or story. Or something. And I think it's genuine. Why don't you tell me what you think?
While studying abroad in Morocco in the spring of 2005, I asked the campus chaplain of the small Christian community at Al Akhawayn University what she did for a living. The only rule for answering was that she wasn’t allowed to use any “church language.”
She thought about it for a second and told me, “I try to model vulnerability.”
The phrase has stuck with me because I believe I am called to places of vulnerability, places where hurt and brokenness meet a God of love.
I grew up in the church, specifically at Baldwin Memorial United Methodist Church in Millersville, MD. If I close my eyes I can still see the light filtering through the stained glass windows onto the maroon pew cushions, and take a deep breath of that old church smell. I have always been encouraged and supported to take leadership roles in the church, and from a relatively early age some people at Baldwin had suggested I might make a good pastor someday.
But by the time I was in high school I was having a hard time, in life and in church. A beloved mentor had died by suicide, and I was having my own struggle with depression. My church wasn’t sure how to help me, but they did know to stand by me and love me, even when I was angry or when I pushed away help.
As high school ended and I began college, I began feeling the tug of God to reengage with the church. God’s gentle nudging, and encouragement of people in my faith community, not only brought me back to a connection with my faith but also led me to think about how I might serve God and my community in the future.
And so it was that I found myself sitting and talking with a campus minister about being a pastor. “I try to model vulnerability,” she said, and thus presented me with a way of approaching Christian ministry that I—broken, hurting, questioning me—could embrace. I didn’t have to have it all together. I didn’t have to have the answers to all the questions that had been plaguing me since high school. I simply had to be ready to serve at places of vulnerability. To listen. To sit with or stand with. To open up space for honesty. And thus to open up space for a vulnerable God, a vulnerable Christ, to enter in.
This model of ministry has followed me—through exploring my faith in college, through my 3 years as a Mission Intern with GBGM in Palestine/Israel and Washington, DC, through my time in seminary, and through my experiences with my own mental health struggles. In these places I have met a vulnerable God, a God who exposes Gods’s self to risk and to harm, even to death, in order to show God’s love and acceptance of us. It is this God who, I feel, is calling me into further ministry and service.
A vulnerable God is not at work simply behind edifices but at intersections, and in many ways I think that I am called to intersections and to voices that are not being heard within the walls of the church. For me, that has meant listening to the voices of Palestinians and Israelis striving for justice and peace. It has meant sitting with people in psych wards, hearing their stories. And it has meant working alongside college students, young adult leaders who often feel unheard by the church.
I feel called to a vulnerable church. To a church that reaches outside of its own walls to hear the voices that are not being heard. I feel called to help co-create this kind of church with the Spirit of God who is not done with us yet. Together, we can find ourselves, like Peter in Cornelius’ house (Act 10:34-48), amazed at who the Spirit is falling on and what new ways God is working in the world around us.
Well, what do you know. Maybe I am called after all. What do you think?
This Lent, I'm not giving up on call.