I was 18 years old when I candidated for ordained ministry – and was accepted. I’d made that decision when I was 16 and had mentors who helped me work towards engaging in the church’s processes from then on. Thanks Dad. Thanks Colville. Thanks Don. Thanks Bob. Thanks Rollie. I began my training at 19. I wasn’t ordained until I was nearly 26, but that’s another story.
I know there are young adults in the UCA who are being called to this strange, amazing, difficult, delicious life today too, but I fear that we have developed a culture of (hands over ears) la, la, la, la, la when it comes to God calling them.
So I’ve been trying to get a conversation about this going in South Australia. One of the things I’ve done is to share this Discussion Paper with the relevant committees. I’d love to know what you think.
PS Apologies for the jargon and acronyms.
We had a similar discussion to this at our Rural Presbyteries meeting in Dubbo at the end of January.
Not only the lack of ministers and candidates, and some of the perhaps outdated practices along the way to ordination, but what is a ‘call to ministry’.
A few of us believe that it is where God guides and places us, however, many ministers will not go to even large regional centres because they want to remain near capital cities and all the facilities.
Perhaps there also needs to be more guidance through the whole process about what entering into POD, Candidacy and eventually ordained ministry means for the family of the minister.
And what ‘call to ministry’ is.
In my situation, my husband was fully aware from when I began my POD that if I transitioned through to ordination, he would probably have to give up his job and move with me, that my ‘call’ would also be a lifestyle change for him (one he was pleased to make when the time came).
I heard recently that one church had a person doing a POD who hadn’t even told their family they were doing it.
If this person eventually decides they are being called to ministry, what happens to their family?
I agree with you that there needs to be a rethink about the whole process, and look forward to seeing how the various committees you have shared this with respond.
Yes Jo, it’s huge. It’s not a “job” God is calling people to. It’s something else We need to talk it through.
Andrew, I’m uncomfortable with the image of the annunciation as as possible metaphor for the call to ordination. As you know, I was part of a “Year of Call” project in the Synod around 2007 so I’m in favour of calling people to ministry. I’ve read the paper and I don’t think it addresses the key issues, and they are reflected in some ways my own ‘non-ordained’ ministry over 35 years.
That’s fine Craig. What do you see as the other key issues.?
First of all, why would anyone under 40 want to spend their time being a chaplain to people over 70? The church already takes the best church planters and sends them to resurrect elderly dying churches. I can name plenty of names. I have many more questions. I know them all too well.
BTW Colville. Don. Bob. Rollie. tick. When I applied to do the YEA course at Alcorn, age 21, both of my referees (Rev Norman MacDonald from Canberra and Rev Les Wyer from Weller’s Hill) weren’t surprised and wondered about ordination track. When I applied to Duke, age 27, Rollie was one of my referees and asked the same question. I had no interest or sense of call to lead a congregation as the solo minister and still don’t. It seems to me that you haven’t done much of that either. However the system is oriented to that.
Spent nearly ten years in the UCA in full time ministry. Would have been keen to explore the call on my life into “ordained” ministry but the thought of another 3-5 years studying on top of a bachelor of ministry at TABOR and the thought of being placed in a dying church made me hesitant. Never once did I feel like the “big church” was interested in my potential or made moves towards equipping me for the future. I see positive moves by some in recent years to change the trend. Interested to see how it pans out and have hope that Jesus will be proclaimed and lives transformed by such a strong church in Australia.
Today 30th March happens to be the 14th anniversary of my Ordination in the UCA.
I had been raised in the Catholic Church, Catholic schooling etc [from an Italian home]
then I walked away from it all;
then married in Catholic Church with subsequent active involvement;
then a shift to assorted independent Pentecostal groups in which my faith was stretched in never before ways and with growing active involvement in ‘up front’ ministries;
then Church of Christ;
then UCA – in the early 1990’s when my ‘call’ started to be insistent via encouragement from a number of key people around me – I was now in my late 30’s.
It was not until 1996 in the midst of active involvement, some studies at the old Wayville College and a sponsorship to an Emmaus Walk and ongoing encouragement that I eventually stopped running away from the ‘call’ and agreed to place myself forward as a Candidate.
At the age of 43 I was accepted as a Candidate which required a move from our country home to Adelaide, sale of country home and for my husband leaving work and both resettling.
With no children and with my husband’s total support and willingness to ‘upstakes’ and start a new life this has all been made possible.
I believe this to be because this was a genuine call with God guiding each step and seeing us through good and difficult times – and there have been many of both!
My ministry placements have all been in urban churches and chaplaincy.
With about 5 more years of ministry life ahead of me and with a husband who is now retired, we are in a position of being open to other options which may take us away from our familiar and comfortable context.
I believe that for many people, irrespective of age, this coming to the point of hearing and accepting a ‘call’ is a process – a process that does take time; definitely an openness to key people in their lives; exposure to diverse life experiences and willingness to listen to God’s presence in all of these.
This was my experience in this particular time, space, social/cultural context.
I’m really keen to chat to you about this. I hear your comments Craig, but surely the ‘system being orientated to’ ordained ministers being chaplains to over 70s means the system needs to change, not that we move completely away from ordination.
I don’t know whether there are any others in the other states, but I’m ordained and under 30. Its lonely. BUT I’m not giving up. I’m leading a growing church in WA where people are coming to faith, and believe that Ministers can be raised up from within this congregation if the Uniting Church is able to provide the flexibility for them to undertake theological studies without it killing them or drying them out. But there’s a way to go – WA is in a worse place that SA (only a few candidates – none of them young).
Can’t find your email address Andrew, but mine is firstname.lastname@example.org. Would love to chat.
[…] connect with a South Australian conversation about call, ministry and ordination earlier this year (God calling). Since then I’ve been asked, in several different contexts, to explain the UCA’s […]