This past year I have been serving a field education placement (read: internship) at a two-point charge in rural North Carolina. That in itself is not earth shattering. What is, for me, is that I have been serving these two congregations and have fallen in love with them. It is not a foreign idea, not really, but unexpected. I find that my apprehension and grief from the beginning of my time there seven months ago has transformed into a realization that they have helped me appreciate the joys and challenges which a small rural church can bring. Through their encouragement and patience they have allowed me to grow and learn how to practice ministry in a way that is healthy and brings the glory of God to the world.
When I came to my congregations, I was appointed because it was a place to be filled. I was reticent about the smallness, the insularity, the style of worship—not foreign, but not preferred—which I would not have chosen for myself. I had such grandiose plans, ideas of worship, missions, youth groups, community outreach; and here I was stuck at a church that seemingly had none of these things to offer. What they offered instead was a chance for me to grow: into my call, into my self, into a pastor.
Scary thought indeed. Especially for one who did not think she wanted to grow into that kind of vocation. “I’m sorry, I know how the system works, and I would really rather not deal with that right now.” Yeah right. Now it is more like: “I know how the system works, and even though it is broken, and has created heartache in my life, I cannot see anything else I would rather do.”
It is at this point that I should be running for the cover, for safety, towards another place where I might possibly find some semblance of security and sanity. But no, that’s not God’s plan for me. Nope. I’m called to serve the United Methodist Church and I want to serve so deeply, so strongly, that I am now running towards this call which I have received. Who would have thought that I would be called to serve like this? I’ve lived overseas and yet I have returned to the place where I was born, to serve these people around me who have become my family.
They were my family already. We shared in the Eucharist before we even met. But now I have lived with them. Now I have come to the same table with them. I cannot do anything but realize that I want to continue to serve them in this way, the only way that is fitting: to serve as a wayfaring shepherd.