“We are recommending you for ordination.” I blinked back tears as I looked down at the paperwork handed to me by the Board of Ordained Ministry and listened to their affirmations.
To paraphrase a friend of mine, I have spent most of my twenties seeking ordination for the United Methodist Church. Learning to become an adult is intertwined with my professional, ministerial evolution. As I have learned to cook meals, build decade’s long friendships, and check my car’s oil, I have also learned how to pray at hospital bedsides, run mission trips, and design bulletins. I grew into myself as I grew into ministry.
A professor in seminary discovered that I planned to do local congregation ministry for a mainline denomination and decided that I had a great deal of hope. It’s generally expected that there wouldn’t be churches in the future – certainly none for the mainline church. I was devoting my studies and my talents to an industry in a death spiral – it was as if I was learning to repair typewriters for a living. She was correct in the assumption that being a young pastor wasn’t easy.
There were times when there wasn’t another person in worship on Sunday morning within a decade of my age. There were the times when the sermon is frequently qualified with “you’re so wise for your age,” when I longed to hear “Pastor, I heard this in the sermon.” One of my chief fears is wondering if there will be a UMC at all in the future if no one in the pews resembles my age. There were so many moments in the life of the church where I mourned my missing generation.
Part of this mourning comes from the fact that I recognize that several of the things I learned in seminary weren’t going to be applicable. The church that had once nourished me was not going to be the church I handed down to those that come after me.
The church now needs to be nimble, to move with the rapid-paced culture. It needs to be relevant to the current heartbreaks and dreams in our people’s hearts. There are so many more pieces that the church needs to know, do, and be in this century, but I know I don’t have all the right responses.
Yet, the reason why I still chose to follow the path of ordained ministry is because of my conviction of the need and goodness of the church in this world. The Gospel of God’s unwavering love needs to be practiced and shared by our congregations. The hope in the Kingdom of God and the joy in our work building it holds true. The special Wesleyan enthusiasm and social concerns are needed for our future in Christianity.
As I looked at that letter of recommendation, I realized one of the last things I’ll do as a 29 year old is get ordained. I’m not sure what the next decade will bring, but I know going forward into this ordination is a step of confidence, trusting that God still has work for United Methodists and will help us meet those who are our future.
Pastor Ruth Marston
(This blog post is republished from the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference publication Channels. See it here: https://s3.amazonaws.com/PNWUMC/Channels/Channels_82_screen.pdf