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Residence in Ministry, Reflection 1

October 28, 2008

As a probationary elder (actually renamed “Provisional Elder” now) I’m gathering with other members of the ordination class of 2010 for three days of fellowship, retreat, education and reflection.  It’s part of the Residence in Ministry run and required by the Conference Board of Ordained Ministry.  We meet (I think) four times a year for these retreats and have really gotten to know one another pretty well as a result.

We had an opportunity yesterday to reflect upon what has been helpful in our quarterly meetings over the past year (and conversely what has been unhelpful).

There has been amazing consensus among the group.  We all seemed to express that:

  • Nobody ever teaches us how to “do” Charge Conference.  Residence in Ministry assumed that New Pastors’ Orientation would go over that, New Pastor’s Orientation assumed that the District Superintendents or our mentors were doing it – you get the picture.  As a result most of us have been busy figuring it out on our own.  Same goes for year-end reports, financial audits, and all the stuff that the Conference expects of us.  Some are fortunate enough to serve as Associate Pastors where they can learn from someone else in the building, but others of us (like me) are utterly alone in our offices.
  • Some of our assignments are a little too much like the case studies we had to do in seminary.  There’s nothing inherently wrong with seminary and I would in fact defend vehemently my decision to go.  But still, we’ve graduated from that and moved into the realm of practice. 
  • We, as a group, did not feel that we were being adequately moved through the process that leads to ordination.  None of our RIM assignments have had us address the ordination questions from the Discipline (our written assignment), our preaching assignment, our Bible Study curriculum design, or anything else from the portfolio that we turn in at ordination time.  That’s not to say that our assignments have been a waste of time – they haven’t – but they haven’t directly addressed that part of the process.
  • Building relationships with one another has been the most vital and essential part of these retreats.  We have made friends with folks we’ll consider colleagues for many years to come.  That connectional piece is critical to our identities as United Methodists.

We were able to grouse about the state of the ordination process in the United Methodist Church and our own personal frustrations with it.  And we are defying the odds – 8 out of 18 in our group (first and second years included) are under 30.  Unfortunately at 40, I’m not one of ‘em, but I’m still under the denominational average (below average in one more category – YAY!)

My nine year old misses me whenever I leave town, my 13 year old had his first basketball game of the season (he scored 7 points, they’re now 1-0!) and my daughter is her typical busy self.  I especially hate missing Tuesdays because my wife and I take Tuesday off together every week, and now she’s home alone while I’m busy here.  I miss our time together.  But these trips are refreshing even if our assignments can be tedious. 

While I may kick and scream, gripe and complain about being here, thanks be to God for these three days and the people with whom I spend them.  They give me hope for the Illinois Great Rivers Conference of the United Methodist Church.

One Comment leave one →
  1. October 29, 2008 8:50 pm

    Thank you for your visit and your opinion. Much appreciated.

    My father is being ordaned Sunday to pastor his first church full time. I am very thankful for what the Lord has done in his life.

    I know you missed your family but that time apart sometimes helps. The whole “absence makes the heart grow fonder” thing. It seems to be the way for my husband and I when he has to travel.

    Be blessed Will.

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