Earlier this week, I met with my Discernment Committee for the first time...as I wrote here a few weeks ago, I've been so impatient to get this process underway!! Has felt like forever since I wrote my letter back in February requesting a committee be set up, but finally we have taken our first step and held our first meeting. (The other committee members had an initial training session, which baffles me, since it appears to have been pretty much exactly the same content as the first meeting with me...why we didn't just all meet and review the process together the first time is beyond me. Process for process sake...urgh!)
(There is more detail around the content of these meetings in the UCC booklet "Discerning a Call to the Order of Ministry", if anyone is interested.) By the way, in case you're wondering what this process is even about, the booklet says this: "One way of describing discernment is “a faithful inquiry into understanding what God is doing and what we are to do in response to God.”2 This inquiry is an intentional process of reflection that takes place over a period of time."
Even though I myself feel God's call so strongly in my heart that I have reached the point where I cannot not answer, I can't just call up the UCC and say "hey, God's calling me to ministry, when do I start?". UCC (or any other denomination, for that matter) obviously needs to ensure prospects truly are called to ministry, and have the gifts for such a vocation, before accepting them.
The meetings are intended to be a time of mutual sharing, and "an opportunity for all to learn and grow in faith while keeping in mind that the focus is on the inquirer and his or her discernment." These are the areas covered:
Initial Training Session: for the other Committee members prior to meeting with the Inquirer
Meeting 1: Getting Started
Meeting 2: Faith and Spirituality
Meeting 3: Ministry and Call
Meeting 4: Leadership and Lifestyle
Meeting 5: Identifying the Future Path
Meeting 6: Concluding the Process
Alas...meeting 1 was a bit of a disappointment for me. All we needed to do was review the process and timelines, set some parameters around confidentiality, appropriate/inappropriate questions, discuss the role of the Inquirer and involvement of spouse, family, significant others, etc. Pretty basic stuff really, in my mind. But...between time wasted on preparing coffee, tea, refreshments (good grief, we met for two little hours, was food really necessary?), and all the off topic chatting, we didn't even manage to cover those basic housekeeping items. So there are a couple points "parked" until meeting 2. I have a growing feeling this process will drag on considerably longer than six meetings...I also fear one or two of my committee members have missed the part about "keeping in mind that the focus is on the inquirer [me] and his or her discernment" and are viewing this as an opportunity to explore their own personal growth and spirituality. Ok, to be fair, some opportunity does exist since "it is expected all will learn and grow in faith", but not in the sense of there being equal focus on everyone's journey. This committee was setup specifically in response to my request, and its purpose is to discern with me if I am called to ordered ministry or not.
And, unfortunately, it looks like our next meeting won't happen until October 5th...almost eight months since I requested a discernment committee be set up, and four months after our initial meeting. I knew the wheels of the church moved slowly, but wasn't expecting this kind of delay!! I am sincerely grateful to those who have agreed to be part of my committee, but the process itself has been straining my patience to the max. Not that it takes much to strain my patience around anything that excites me! At such times, my heart becomes a noisy place with my inner child jumping up and down, shouting things like: "Is it time?? Are we there yet?? When is it MY turn???!!!"
Ah but I came across a quotation this morning that shushed my inner child, and quieted my heart to feel God's calming presence wrap around me...as I contemplated the words, through me blew a reassuring sense that all will unfold as it should in due time...
So, on this marvellous sunny Friday in June, I am deeply grateful for a welcome breath of patience and for the wisdom of Rainer Maria Rilke:
"...to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer."
(from Letters to a Young Poet, chapter 4)
As always, each Friday I invite you to click over to Diana Strinati Baur's blog and check out the other Gratitude Friday Club blogs...