I don't often 'play' Friday Five, but given my own current state of transition, and my own recent thoughts about "What Might Have Been," this "fork in the road" Friday Five caught my attention. Over at RevGalBlogPals, Singing Owl writes: I am at a life-changing juncture. I do not know which way I will go, but I have been thinking about the times, people and events that changed my life (for good or ill) in significant ways. For today's Friday Five, share with us five "fork-in-the-road" events, or persons, or choices. And how did life change after these forks in the road?
1. My path into ordained ministry was like my own faith journey - marked not by a 'conversion' moment, but by what I would describe more as a 'strainer' experience. The jumbled pieces of what I thought constituted a call from God into first camping ministry and then youth ministry were all poured into a strainer, and what was left behind was a clear calling into pastoral ministry. That's the best why I can describe it. A critical decision for ordained ministry happened in my college-search process. I just couldn't find a school that fit my hope: to major in youth ministry. The schools I looked at were all Christian colleges with an orientation that was much too conservative theologically for me, even in my high-school days. I finally visited and applied to Gordon College. My visit was awful. I attended chapel, and found myself so upset by what I was hearing in worship that I sobbed as soon as it was over. I had no idea where to go or what to do. My pastor suggested some UMC-affiliated schools, including Ohio Wesleyan, which seemed the best fit of the four he mentioned. I applied without visiting (although I visited later,) and found out they had a pre-theology major. Somehow, by the time I started my first semester, I was planning on ordained ministry, without even realizing how it quite happened.
2. Like my friend Amy, I strayed from the 'typical' pattern of education. I didn't skip a year in elementary school - I graduated a year early from Ohio Wesleyan, completing my BA in three instead of four years. I'm not really sure what even started me on this path - I had the plan to try it before I even arrived for my first semester. I looked at the course catalog and the requirements, and I realized how easy it would be to do, with my semester of credits I would start with thanks to high-school/college level classes. Just before my third year, I began to have doubts about my decision. I was really enjoying my time at OWU, and I knew I would miss my friends. If I stuck around a fourth year, I could add a second major. It was actually at Exploration '98 that I wrestled with a lot of these questions thanks to a workshop on discernment I almost didn't go to. Ultimately, I think I made the right decision - I was ready to move on from OWU. But I still wonder sometimes!
3. Choosing my seminary was another fork-in-the-road decision. I visited Drew, Wesley, and Boston. I loved the city of Boston. I loved the emphasis on religion and the arts at Wesley, and their program with religion and politics. But as soon as I visited Drew, I knew I would go there. It didn't have any particular program that compelled me. It was just a feeling. A widow of a pastor in my home congregation said to me, after I told her I was going to Drew, "I prophesied you would go there." She'd never said this kind of thing to me before, and never did after, but if there's anyone I would totally believe, it was her. I knew I'd made the right choice, and never wished I'd gone elsewhere.
4. In my last year of seminary, my childhood pastor invited me to commute to Drew and serve as his assistant pastor at his new(ish) appointment. We'd worked together with me as an intern when I was in college, and we worked well together. I agreed to take the position. And then - it just didn't sit right with me. I did not have any peace in my decision. So I sheepishly changed my mind. That spring, the then-pastor at my childhood church fell very ill. Because I wasn't working elsewhere, I was able to fill in at my home church almost every Sunday, preaching, teaching, visiting, etc., during an extremely difficult time for the congregation. I was so thankful I was available, and knew my difficult decision had been the right one.
5. Both coming to this appointment in New Jersey and leaving it are fork-in-the-road times. I struggled with the decision to come here, and I struggled with the decision to move back to NCNY. For me, making appointment decisions is so complicated because you ask questions not just about how the transition will affect yourself, but about how it will affect entire congregations, the one you serve and the one you might begin to serve. I've been blessed with congregations that have been particularly supportive and affirming in the midst of transition.