Here We Go Again…

Well, this is going to be what seems like my 100th attempt at blogging regularly. I always get going well in the beginning, and then let it slip away. I figured it was time to get going moving on it again. So many things have changed over the last year that I’m not going to even attempt to catch up on everything on this blog. I’ll highlight a few things, and set the tone for future blogs.

I am in the third month of my third year as a pastor. I began my third year in the Conestoga Parish on July 1, 2010. It’s both exciting and scary knowing that I’ve been in the same place for that long. Most of my employment up to this point has been seasonal or temporary at best. The other thing about starting my third year is that I know it will be my last with these three churches. Starting July 1, 2011, I will be a full time pastor and will move to a new church, and most likely a new town. I’ll share more about that in the future, because I don’t know anything about that yet and won’t until I get the phone call next spring.

Along with starting my final year at the churches, I begin my final year of seminary. I won’t mince words here, I’m extremely excited to be finishing up school. I started school at 5 1/2 years old, and now I’m 25 1/2 years old. That’s been a lot of time in school thus far in my life, and I’m ready for a break. People tell me that I’ll miss it, but I just want the opportunity to miss it. Right now I miss being home for more than 3 days a week. I miss being able to spend time with my family and friends on a regular basis. Many of my friends are getting married, having kids, and I want to be more free to experience those things with them. I fell rushed all the time, like I can’t give my all to any thing, only part of me to a million different things. Anyway, I’m ready for May to come around and to have completed my Master’s degree. It’s been a long few years here, and I’ll be glad to have that degree in my hand.

This last summer I had some exciting times. At Annual Conference (if you don’t know what that is, think of it as a large corporate meeting with all of its stockholders) I was commissioned as a Provisional Elder in the Nebraska Conference of the United Methodist Church. Now, what does that mean? Well, in short, I’m a step away from full ordination. The Board of Ordained Ministry felt that I was prepared enough to take on the work of an Elder, with some accountability and supervision, and after a couple years, I will be eligible for ordination. If all goes well, I’m looking at summer of 2013 for ordination. Here’s a picture from that event.

Well, I think I’ve spent enough time tonight tinkering with the design and layout of the blog and writing this post, I better get back to the homework. I’ve already started the list of things to blog about, so look forward to more posts coming soon. It feels good to be back.

Grace and Peace,

Refelctions

I’ve never been one to set resolutions as a new year begins, but I do think it’s important to reflect on events and happenings in my life and see what I can learn. 2008 was a year of much diversity in my experiences. There’s been highs and lows, and everything in between.

2008 started and ended in the exact same place and with some of the same people. I found myself in cold machine shed in rural Nebraska with friends from college. That might have been the same, but everything in between was anything but familiar.

I spent the first 5 months of 2008 living in Kansas City and working at Baker University in Kansas. I enjoyed the time very much, and often miss living in a city with so much to do. That semester is also when I experienced a class that forced me to think in different ways about theology. I was introduced to Process Theology, and think that this will be an area I will spend more time in, either in a class or on my own. I discovered an understanding of God that made sense to me and lined up with my experiences. This was a big moment for me to have discovered something in seminary that got me excited about what I was doing.

The spring of 2008 also brought about the quadrennial gathering of United Methodists known as General Conference. This was my second time attending, but my first as a primary delegate. This was a time of deep struggling for me personally and spiritually. There were many glimmers of hope that I saw and experienced during the conference, but there were also some down times. It won’t be a surprise to anyone who knows me, but there was much disappointment in the church’s continued decision to ban the ordination of homosexuals. Also, the continued policies that make the church less accessible to the LGBT community troubled me at the time, and still does. However, I experienced a progressive community that I had not previously within the denomination. These were people I shared views and passions with, and gave me some comfort during that time.

Following General Conference, the school year ended and I received my first appointment as a pastor in the United Methodist Church. This resulted in a move back to Nebraska and a few life style changes. I also spent July in Dallas at the South Central Jurisdictional Conference to elect bishops for the church. This was my last act as a lay person in the United Methodist Church, and was a reaffirmation of why I am moving towards ordination and greater leadership in the church. The politics and clear prejudices present at this event showed me the need for great change in the church.

As August and September came around, I became very excited to start school again. I was ready to start learning and to see my friends again. However, I never thought that this fall would be such a challenging time in so many ways. These last 4-5 months have been the most difficult that I’ve experienced in my life, and there are so many different elements that have contributed to it. I’ve learned so much about who I am in comparison to who I thought I should be, and learned a lot about trust. I’ve gained some amazing people in my life through these experiences, and wouldn’t want to have had any other people in my life during this time.

One shining highlight of the year was the election of Barack Obama as President of the United States. I spent much of the year hoping for that night when the election happened. I had the opportunity to see Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton in person, as well as take part in a few political rallies. It was exciting to be a part of something so historic. Election night was also a lot of fun in KC. I got to see the results with my closest friends and had a blast.

I know there will be challenges and difficulties in the future, but at this point I’m hoping for all the best in 2009. I have a lot of questions about my calling and my future ministry, but am going to take it as it comes and discover where I’m suppose to be in life. It may even end up being something I never imagined.

I’ve gained so much from my close circle of friends in the last part of 2008, and feel a lot better than I would if I didn’t have them. In some of my most difficult times, I gained people that are family to me. I can never thank you all enough, and look forward to the times we will have together in the future.

I pray that everyone will receive love and happiness this coming year, and all the years ahead. Take time to evaluate life, and be willing to try something new!

Grace and Peace,
Z

One Reflection of General Conference

//www.youtube.com/get_player

This is the video of the Witness that took place on the floor of General Conference. It was very moving experience. I found myself experiencing the Spirit of God during this time in ways I have not felt in a long time. The most powerful part to me was the bishops who were willing to stand to show their acknowledgment of the divide in our church, and the need for change. I found myself unable to control my emotions during this time, and began to cry during a couple occasions during the witness. The first was when the singing began and I saw all of the people standing in unity with those offering the witness, and the other when Bishop Melvin Talbert went to the microphone to offer the following words:

“My name is Melvin Talbert. I am one of your bishops. In this General Conference we have been reminded that in 1939 this church took an action that separated my sisters and brothers into a separate jurisdiction. That action was wrong. That action was a sin against God. Thank God we have moved through and discontinued that segregated structure. But my sisters and brothers, here we are again. In the name of Jesus Christ, we have taken an action that is wrong. At least for the Central Jurisdiction we remained within a structure and we worked out the relationships. But for these sisters and brothers we have chosen to leave them out rather than invite them into work out our relationships in the name of Christ. I can do no other than to say what’s on my heart. General Conference, General Conference, This is wrong. I invite you to reconsider.”

When the vote first occurred on the issues around sexuality, I felt an urge to be angry and finally leave the denomination. I knew that I had a place in the UCC, and would be more than comfortable there. As this witness occurred, and I spoke to people who were also struggling with these stances, I realized the need to stay and work for justice. I am able to be ordained because my sexual orientation is accepted by the church, and I can work for change within the system. I pray that we may be able to be an open church for all people, and realize that above all things, Love is the call of God.

I’ll have other reflections over the next few weeks, but I started with this one.

Grace and Peace,
Z