I have felt called to ministry ever since I was in high school. I remember, at one point, my youth pastor telling me he’d like to go with me to the downtown where we lived, soap-box in hand and let me have at it. Things have in some ways changed a lot since then, you won’t find me on a real soap-box anytime soon but I guess starting this blog five years ago is not far from this idea. I have always loved sharing ideas and teaching, I love it when I see people light up and get excited about theological and philosophical topics.
I decided to study Bible and Theology in undergrad because I wanted to go into ministry, I had helped lead my youth group while I was still in high school and really enjoyed that process, plus I felt God had a clear call on my life to pastor, so Theology was for me. After some prodding I decided to try my hands at youth ministry, which I really enjoyed doing. This was not only my entry point into doing ministry as a career option but it was also the entry point for me into the Quaker world. I began the recording process (similar to ordination) with the Evangelical Friends in Ohio but never finished because of our move out the LA. After moving to Southern California in 2003, I started working with Young Life and did that for two years before decided to focus more heavily on my studies.
I’ve gone through points where I haven’t wanted to pastor, where I wasn’t sure I was cut out for it (that remains to be seen) and whether it was the avenue I really wanted to pursue. Thus, I began a PhD because I know I like to teach, work with people and research. My most common feeling has been that I want to do both teaching and pastoral ministry, that I feel called to bridge the gap between the congregation and the “ivory tower.” And that for me both of these areas are integral to who I am. As Emily once said, she feels I’d be a pastoral teacher or a teaching pastor. Over the course of this past year or two I started thinking about pastoral ministry again, that I miss all the things (or at least most) that come with territory, but also that my own theological understanding is lacking the other side of who I am.
This past October Colin Saxton, the superintendent of Northwest Yearly Meeting, wrote an email to me suggesting I apply for a recent pastoral opening at Camas Friends Church in Camas Washington. I had recently told him about how busy I was in school and how I was trying to remain focused at the task at hand, but alas he felt this was an opportunity I would want to know about. He was right. I read through the information sheet on Camas and found that it sounded a lot like my kind of Quaker meeting. Here is one statement that stood out to me:
We are a Quaker Meeting intending to reach out and serve our community. Our goals are to continue the spiritual and physical growth of our congregation as we journey together as a community. We wish to serve as a witness of Quaker testimonies to our greater community. We are here to love God and love people.
Here is an evangelical Friends meeting that’s not only comfortable with identifying as Quaker, but are outward focused (to their community) and see this witness as rooted in Quaker testimonies. This sounded, along with the rest of the information I read, very intriguing. So I sent in my CV and resume, filled out their questionnaire and wrote a short letter describing where I stood on important theological matters.
I had a phone interview with the search committee in November and then they took the holidays off to pray and discern their next steps. While I was in Philadelphia for the peace gathering, with a crew from the Northwest Yearly Meeting, I got a call from a member of the search committee asking if they could fly the three of us up to Washington for a weekend visit. That sounded good to us so in February we visited Camas, as well as Portland (about 20 min away), and had a great time. Everyone in the meting made us feel really welcomed. My initial inclination that this was a community I’d like were confirmed by our visit. Emily and I both, upon leaving, felt this was a Quaker meeting we’d attend if we lived in the area (I also preached my first sermon in about 7 years that Sunday during our visit, which was quite an event).
And as some of you who follow me on twitter already know, this past week Camas Friends called me to be their next pastor, and after a weekend of discussing it with family and friends we accepted the call on Monday. Yes, my doctorate is looming large, but the church is excited and supportive of this process. I’m at the point now in my studies were the rest of what I need to do is independent studies that I can do from a distance and if I can stay on task I hope to wrap things up in 2011-12.
We will be moving to the North in May and leaving behind wonderful friends, a great church community, and 6 years of our lives being around Fuller and working in the area. It also means that we’re not moving closer to Ohio anytime soon, a hard fact for us to face especially since we now have a child. But we’re really excited about this opportunity as well, a feel the Lord has opened way for us. We are also excited to be living in the Northwest, and so close to Portland! I have long admired the reputation of the Northwest Yearly Meeting as evangelical Quakers who are unashamedly Christian yet work with other Quakers across spectrums and are committed to their tradition. I really look forward to getting back into the swing of things with ministry and dreaming with the people at Camas Friends about the ways in which we can help be a witness to God’s kingdom in that place.
More on all this in the coming months…