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Knowing Our Call

For most of my years of pastoral formation, so far, I’ve thought I was called to be a church planter. In the 2010s, especially here in the Pacific Northwest, the call from the church seemed to be church planting. Churches were closing, Methodist, and more broadly, Mainline Protestant, presence was waning, and there was a broad desire for a creative effort toward a new kind of church. Here I am, Lord, send me! 

I wasn’t sure if it was because I have internalized the Pacific Northwest’s ‘Last Frontier’ pioneering history, or something else, but church planting resonated with me—it made my soul hum. My field education in seminary was with a beautiful, creative, fragile new church start that is about to turn 7 years old. It was a fantastic experience, and the community I grieved the most when leaving Chicago. 

But as I returned to the place that had called me to church planting, it didn’t seem to be happening for me. For a variety of reasons, I was appointed to a small, rural church as part of a revitalization project, and now to First Olympia—a very established, historic, flagship congregation. Definitely not a church plant. 

There has, at times, been tension and grief in my own spirit that wonders if I’ll ever do what I set out to do—plant a church! And at the same time, I really like my work, and it does feel meaningful. The world has changed dramatically since 2020, and the onset of a global pandemic; since 2016 and that fateful election. The world’s landscape, and in turn, the religious landscape, has changed dramatically. The call from the church and the world right now is not to church planting—at least for me. The call I am hearing is to build trust in institutions like the church, which has eroded over time, by building long term relationships, practicing servant leadership, and finding creative ways to make meaning of our lives in the tradition of Methodism and Christianity. 

Did I mishear the initial call to plant churches? I don’t think so. All of the skills I learned through church planting are the same exact skills I need to tend to the call before me now. What I’ve learned in the last few years is that my call to church planting was really too specific, and fragile. If we understand our calls to only be able to be lived out in one kind of job, one very unique set of circumstances, it is likely we will spend most of our lives not living out that call, perhaps having a sense of failure or meaninglessness. 

But, I think I’m actually called to something deeper. I am called to make beautiful things with people; I am called to build trustworthy systems; I am called to create opportunities for meaning-making especially with those least likely to step into our doors; I am called to teach; I am called to shepherd; I am called to prophecy within and beyond the church—all things I get to live into both in church planting, in established church ministry, and potentially in other settings as well. 

The Spirit (and Miss Brittney) are leading our church into dynamic, growing children’s ministry. And in order to follow where the Spirit is leading, we need volunteers. In order to make beautiful things with people - children and their families - we need volunteers. We need teachers, and prophets, and people with wisdom. We need people who are quick to laugh, or quick to care. The children need people who are smart as a whip, people who can make chicken nuggets, musicians, people with deep faith, and people who are wrestling with their faith. Perhaps children’s ministry is not the venue in which you foresaw yourself living into the call God has placed upon your life. But perhaps you will be delighted to learn, as I have been, that our calls are far broader and deeper than the fences and particularities we have placed around them. 

I wonder what the children might bring out into the light for you? 

If you’re willing to find out, please reach out to Pastor Heather or Miss Brittney to find out how to volunteer on Wednesday nights or Sunday mornings.

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