The past month has brought out a whole spectrum of emotions. Most of those emotions were related to saying goodbye to a number of dear friends who have moved away and are preparing to start their ministry in a variety of settings. But underneath all the happy tears and smiles for the amazing work that my friends and colleagues have accomplished, underneath the joy of seeing so many pictures of commissioning services, new parsonages, and new churches, underneath my own outward excitement for new role at Park Ridge Community Church (PRCC) and beginning my Master of Theological Studies degree, underneath all of that have been emotions I am not proud to admit feeling.
Anger… Sadness… Frustration… Even jealousy…
For every positive emotion I felt for my friends as they moved on with their lives and ministries, I also felt like there was a knife getting twisted one more notch in my heart. For every Facebook status announcing a first appointment and sense of relief at finally getting to live out a calling, I second-guessed my own call, second-guessed my decision to leave the UMC, and second-guessed whether my desire to one day have the chance at a partner and a family, and live openly in that relationship, was something I should have sacrificed to in order to live out my calling in the UMC.
The day I joined PRCC and officially left the UMC to be a part of the United Church of Christ (UCC) was an incredibly happy but also heartbreaking day. My heart was filled with such a sense of joy and acceptance during the service and afterward at the reception. I felt like I had a true church home again. Yet, the moment I drove out of the church parking lot, I cried… and I cried the entire 30 minute drive back to my apartment. And I’ve cried a number of nights since then. I let something go that day that PRCC and the UCC, at least at this point in time, haven’t been able to completely replace.
Today, I met with my pastor to discuss some of the process for my ordination in the UCC. When I got home this afternoon, I did more research and started creating my own checklist of things I have to do, as well as create a timeline of the time-period requirements for my Association of the UCC.
At least one year membership
At least two years at In Care status (think certified candidate in UMC terms)
In total, at least three years
Three years before I can have the chance to be voted on to be approved for ordination and even then, it will be who knows how long before I am able to find a job (welcome to the search and call system).
And I get it. I understand why the time requirements are there. I understand that I will not be the typical person because I already have my Master of Divinity degree. I understand that the church and the Association need to get to know me, to see for themselves proof of my calling, my abilities, and my preparedness. But understanding in my mind doesn’t take away from the hurting in my heart. It didn’t keep me from crying on my front porch this afternoon after reading through all the documents a third time, still hoping to find some loophole that will let me take just a year off the process. Understanding doesn’t take away from the pain and frustration of feeling like I’m just biding time for three years for something I know I’m called, qualified, and equipped to do.
To be completely honest, I did not want to do the MTS right after my MDiv… My plan had always been to graduate with my MDiv, go work in a church for a while, pay off some student loan debt, and then go back for the PhD… But plans change. Things don’t always turn out the way you hoped they would. And with those changes and transitions often comes pain, confusion, frustration, and anger. You grieve the loss of what was and what was “suppose” to happen and do your best to live and deal with the present. And right now I’m having a hard time living and dealing with the present because I feel like somehow I’ve failed.
And before y’all start yelling at me, I know I haven’t failed. I know I shouldn’t second-guess the decisions I’ve made. I know I’m still called. I know that it will all work out in the end.
But I also know how I feel right now.
I know I’m still grieving and I know I’m still hurting. I know I’m frustrated and angry at myself, at God, and at the UMC. I know I’m afraid that I’m not going to have the energy, passion, or drive to keep going forward with the process. I know I have never felt so alone, confused, or unsure about a process. I know I feel like I really don’t have anyone to look to for guidance in this process. And somehow, it just feels wrong to keep denying those facts.
So, what’s the point of all this… I honestly have no idea. What will be, will be. I’m grateful that I have the ability and chance to do the MTS degree and continue to read and write. I’m grateful, no matter what happens, that I’ve found an amazing congregation to call my church home and I’m grateful that so many of my friends have been appointed or received a call or found a job. I know they are going to do some amazing things in the church and the world and I could not be prouder of them. If things don’t work out for me, I at least can rest easy knowing that they will continue to fight with the UMC and the Church in general for full inclusion, so others won’t end up like me, trying to find where they belong in an effort to live out a calling from God to live authentically and serve God and the people of God.