What is your only comfort?

Urban God-talk for the church-o-phobic.

Monday, November 14, 2005

We can pray for her

Today I filled out a survey from the Fund for Theological Education regarding encouraging young people to enter the ministry. One of the questions asked something related to whether or not I personally felt fulfilled with a career in ministry and if so, why.

My immediate answer was "yes, of course I feel fulfilled." This kind of surprised me. Even though I really love the ministry, I'm growing weary of the fighting over my ordination. Initially, the congregation and I developed work-arounds for my not being ordained. Our supervisor would preside at consistory meetings and an ordained minister would celebrate communion. It wasn't optimal, but at least it allowed the congregation to partake of all the means of grace and have its business done decently and in good order.

Over the past year, though, the congregation has blossomed and there are moments when my not being ordained is just...well...impractical and at times painful. Take for instance Brent's baptism. Here was a baby who was conceived with the prayers of our tiny congregation two years ago. His birth was the first baby born in our church for many years, and his baptism was a real event for us. Since I am not ordained, we called in an outside minister, one whom the congregation did not know and had not met before. She didn't know Brent from any other beautiful baby, but she performed the baptism.

Yesterday we ordained and installed three new deacons. This, too, was big event since it's been years since our consistory actually expanded its size. An outside minister came for this event as well and did a lovely job of officiating. Fortunately, she has known our congregation for many years and this was a great comfort. But when it came to signing the certificates for the deacons, there was a line for the "President of Consistory" and neither she nor I could officially sign it.

So how is it that I'm still excited about ministry? Well, the fact is that ordination is, indeed, a significant experience and that holding the office of minister is a profound responsibility and calling. But, just because I am not an ordained minister it does not mean that I do not experience God's calling or the joys that come in living out such a calling.

Two years ago our church was struggling. There's no doubt about that. But over the past year we've grown in our size and particularly in our ministry with children. Yesterday the front step of the sanctuary was filled with kids for the children's sermon - I imagine at least 10 of them. But one of them was not feeling well and stayed behind. I started the children's sermon by asking if everyone had enough space and if everyone was present. One of the kids immediately noted that the one who wasn't feeling well was not with them on the step. So I asked them "what can we do when one of our friends isn't feeling well?"

I hadn't anticipated a particular answer to this question, but was thinking that perhaps the kids would say "give her a hug" or "talk with her" or "see if we can help." Instead, the first answer one of them blurted out was "we can pray for her." And so we all stopped what we were doing and prayed for her.

A year ago, the majority of those kids wouldn't have known about prayer. Few of them had ever been to a church in their lives. And here they were able to come up with that answer all on their own.

I know that a lot of people read this blog, especially people who go blue in the face when they think that I could possibly be ordained to the ministry. To you (and I know that you are reading this) I say this:

You can keep me from being ordained all you like, but for those kids I am already their minister. God called me. The congregation has called me. Most importantly, those kids have called me. And none of them has asked for your opinion about it. It isn't your call; it's theirs.

14 Comments:

At 2:31 PM, Blogger Scribe said...

10 weeks before my graduation, with a call in my hand, the dean of WTS calls me in & says that I won't get a certificate of fitness unless I take a CPE course asap. I asked why, and the reply I received was that I was not "pastorally sensitive." I got seriously ticked off because I had a 3.9 GPA and $1,000 love-offering from the church I had just interned at. So I said no. Well, after some negotiation, I did a semi-CPE at the church which called me, and was ordained the following year. All that time I felt humiliated, resentful, and a 2nd Class clergy. I had to have retired pastors come & do communion (one used the 1907 form!), etc.

Anyway, it's not the same, but I feel for you. It was unfair to me, and this is unfair to you. The difference is, I had a timetable. You have to contend with a classis without sufficient conviction to say "No," and without sufficient courage to say "Yes." I suppose we'll all just have to keep praying for you.

 
At 3:14 PM, Anonymous Marey said...

What wonders children are!

You have an amazing ministry so something must be right. I hope the classis can get it right as well.

Keeping you, your family and your church family in prayer,

Peace,

Marey

 
At 6:38 PM, Blogger RogueMonk said...

Yes it is God who calls, but it is the community of faith who affirms that call. While in the local sense the community has affirmed your call, the wider community of faith has not and will not. Perhaps, then, the statment "it isn't your call" is quite erroneous.

Respectfully,
RogueMonk

 
At 7:38 PM, Blogger Jarred said...

What a touching story. I know several adults who could learn a great deal from your kids.

 
At 7:45 PM, Anonymous Towanda said...

At least in my tradition (UCC), it IS the local community that ultimately affirms the call. No matter what the denomination thinks (or the church down the street), I could be ordained if the local church sees fit.

And your last paragraph KICKS ASS. Of course I say that in the most pastorally appropriate way possible.

 
At 7:47 PM, Blogger Ann said...

RogueMonk,

Our polity puts the decision of whom is to be ordained in the hands of the classis. As a "lead pastor" you should know this. So even though you and the Classis of British Columbia would like to vote on my ordination it is, indeed, not your call at all. Polity-wise, it is the call of the classis, and neither you nor I know what the Classis of New York will or will not decide.

God works in mysterious and surprising ways and I wouldn't want the job of saying if the wider community of faith will not affirm my call.

I can, though, point out that no one in your classis has had the compassion or pastoral sense to care much about the future of the congregation I serve. If you so want to toss me out, what are you going to say to the ones who are left behind without a pastor? "We'd rather have you not know how to pray than learn how to pray thanks to the leading of a married gay person?"

 
At 9:15 PM, Blogger RogueMonk said...

Thanks for your reply. I think you have read too far into my post and into the assumptions of others. Here are three points of correction:

1.) You say: "Our polity puts the decision of whom is to be ordained in the hands of the classis. As a "lead pastor" you should know this."
- I do know this, and I made no statement to the contrary.
2.) You say: "So even though you...would like to vote on my ordination it is, indeed, not your call at all."
- Your assertion is false. I have no desire do vote on your ordination.
3.) You say: "...no one in your classis has had the compassion or pastoral sense to care much about the future of the congregation I serve."
- That too is false. My posts elsewhere in your blog show that I do care about your congregation. More that that, niether you nor I have the ability to say what individual members of a classis care about.

Blessings and peace,
RogueMonk

 
At 10:17 PM, Blogger Ann said...

I'll give you points 1 and 2, but will have to disagree on point 3. No one from BC has written, called or attempted to converse with the congregation I serve. Instead, they've sent numerous letters as well as overtures about my cadidacy and gay folks in general. I can easily say what the vast members of your classis are against gay people serving in the church and especially against my serving this congregation.

 
At 11:00 PM, Blogger RogueMonk said...

Ann, you make a very aboslute statement. While it may be true that members of BC Classis (and many throughout the RCA) "are gainst gay people serving in the church and especially against my serving this congregation.", that does not mean they lack care.

Please, let me go on record as saying:
- I care about you. I care about your church. I am excited to hear that things are going so well.


In sincere Christian love,
RogueMonk

 
At 7:42 PM, Blogger jo(e) said...

Sometimes kids are so much quicker than adults to see the truth. Their affirmation of your ministry says a whole lot.

 
At 10:04 PM, Blogger Abby said...

I WOULD like to vote on Ann's ordination, and I say, (cursing at the situation) Ann is one of the best pastors I know, gifted, wonderful, a blessing to everyone she meets. She is called, and the evidence is, well, plainly evident. I say, ordain her already! C'mon! If in the RCA our understanding of ordination is functional, meaning that we don't ordain primarily because of a person's special identity, but because the person needs to be ordained to carry out the functions of ministry (the sacraments), then Ann fits the bill. Ordain her so that she can do her job. Please, people. For the sake of the church.

 
At 4:53 PM, Anonymous Karel Boersma said...

Ann,
You are of course called by your congregation, your children, your community to be their pastor. This begs the more important question. God is calling, has called you and continues to call you to ministry. Your RCA needs to realize that by not confirming this call they are acting outside of God's will. "By your fruits you shall know them".

Your frustration, your pain your inconvenience is borne out because of this simple fact that our church is out of harmony with God's will in this matter.

So you are in my prayers and I pray that your work continues to be blessed by God!

Karel

 
At 12:19 AM, Blogger James Brumm said...

I am reminded of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch, and the question "What is to prevent him from being baptized?"

What is to prevent Ann Kansfield from being ordained? If we look at the clear actions of the Holy Spirit, the answer is "Nothing." If we look at the Scriptures, the answer is "Nothing." If we look at the RCA Constitution (the tangible expression of our covenant), the answer is "Nothing." If we look at the expressed dire need for pastors in the RCA, and the stated aims of the 10-year goal, the answer is "Nothing."

Lord, have mercy on our cowardly, faithless, waffling souls.

 
At 9:25 PM, Anonymous peripateticpolarbear said...

I would vote for you. Of course, I don't get a vote either. But one thing I have learned in this world is this:

God calls ministers and doesn't care what the particular denominations or congregations think.

There's a difference between someone ordained and a minister. I hope you know both someday. Seems to me you are already a minister.

 

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