In the last few weeks, I’ve had several conversations with friends in many places who are working hard to discern how God is calling them to faithfully serve. In most cases, these individuals were still wrestling with their questions and doubts and the glimmers of new possibility. Where could the gifts God had nurtured in them best be used? Would it be a mistake to make a move when there was so much about their current ministry and work that they cherished? Did they really have the courage to accept the new challenge that seemed to be beckoning?
In one case, a friend had already prayerfully considered such questions and had taken the leap from one ministry setting into another very different call. As we talked about his decision and the new work he had just begun, we laughed a bit together about the wonderful, unexpected, sometimes even unwelcome ways God calls us into new and uncharted territories. “Is it crazy that I’ve accepted this new [overwhelming & enormous] call?” he reflected. “Yes, absolutely! But I’m saying ‘yes’ anyway!”
That’s what this adventure of faith is always like. God is constantly nudging and prodding us to consider a new path, to serve in ways that sometimes feel out of our reach or too daunting to contemplate. God’s ways can be a little crazy-making! But if we listen carefully to God’s annoyingly persistent voice whispering in our ears, we often find ourselves saying “yes!” to new opportunities we might never have imagined.
It must have been like that for our dear departed friend, LaVonne Young (Congregational UCC-Rochester), who in her mid-50’s chose a new career path and began her Master of Divinity studies at United Theological Seminary (UTS). Though cancer would prevent her from completing those studies, she received an honorary Master of Divinity degree from UTS just three days before her death.
Mizpah UCC in Hopkins knows what it means to say “yes!” to an unexpected adventure, too. They recently welcomed a whole new future when they voted to enter into a “Shared Ministry” agreement with an ELCA congregation and move forward together.
Reverend Todd Smith-Lippert, one of the pastors at First UCC in Northfield, said “yes!” when he sensed God’s nudging to run for the Minnesota State Legislature in this election…..and he won!
United Theological Seminary said “yes!” when it determined to sell its New Brighton campus and make a bold move into the city, following God’s lead to seek a new future where it could better serve its students and its missional purpose of developing faithful leaders for the Church and society.
And I said “yes!” five years ago when I left a ministry I treasured at Back Bay Mission in Biloxi, Mississippi to become your Conference Minister in the Minnesota Conference , a role I had never imagined God would someday call me to.
Every person of faith, every congregation, and the Minnesota Conference too is tasked with paying attention to how God is calling us to fresh ministry and purpose in each new day. None of us are exempt from this faithful undertaking of prayerful discernment. We have to be willing to consider the possibility that God might have something different in mind for us, even when what’s tapping us on the shoulders seems just a little crazy or impossible.
What crazy possibility is God urging you or your congregation to consider? Will you say “yes!”? May God grant each of us wisdom and courage as we seek to faithfully respond to God’s call upon our lives.
With you on the journey,
Reverend Shari Prestemon