The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers,to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.
— Ephesians 4:11-13 (NRSV)
One of the great blessings of our congregation is the number of people who have felt called to ministry out of our church family. Between Cat Allard, Barbara Papagian, Emelia Attridge and Kathy Alger, we have been abundantly blessed with highly talented and deeply committed people rising to the joys and challenges of ordained ministry. It has been our pleasure and privilege to watch their spiritual journeys unfold, and to witness and celebrate their gifts and calling.
This coming Sunday we have yet another opportunity to participate in this unfolding. At 3 PM in our sanctuary, Emelia Attridge will come before the called churches of our Association to be examined in her Ecclesiastical Council. She will have a chance to expand on her ordination paper, and then will respond to questions from representatives of the gathered churches. This is done with an understanding that, in our tradition, a personal sense of call needs to be affirmed by the larger church before a candidate can go forward to serve.
For those who have not been through the process, it can be hard to explain how important this day is. But I did find a wonderful description online, written by a woman who was a ministerial candidate back in 2012.
That morning dawned clear and bright, a beautiful autumn day. At my home church, … I was invited to witness in service that morning what it meant to me to be going forward to my Ecclesiastical Council in the afternoon. I thanked the church, who had accompanied me the whole distance, from first enrollment in seminary to now. I told them, “Today is the culmination of so many years of preparation. You have walked this whole way with me! Although people don’t usually get recommended for this final step unless it is believed they can pass, still there is the possibility that today the Council could vote not to put me forward for ordination. Yet, I tell you, whatever the outcome, the victory is already mine. For I have worked these 8 years through part-time seminary, CPE, field education and so much more, increasingly putting myself in God’s hands, preparing myself to do the work God intends for me, and I am ready to step forward with my whole self! That is not something I ever felt equipped for, much less brave enough for, in the past. So, rejoice with me! No matter what happens today, I am in God’s hands.
Emelia’s story is different in the details, but much the same in spirit. We have, indeed, walked with her through the challenging process of moving toward ordination. She has drawn strength, guidance and affirmation from her church family, and is now ready to take this very important next step. Allow me to encourage you all to come on Sunday if you are able. This is not only Emelia’s celebration. It is ours as well.
Yours in Grace,