"Send out Your light and Your truth, that they may lead me, and bring me to Your holy hill and to Your dwelling." Psalm 43:3

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Yeah, I'd Like to Be a Priest

A few nights past I had a conversation with a friend who is an ordained Lutheran pastor.  I was sharing with him my experience of the last year and a half, as I've been "seeking to discern a call" to ordained ministry.  I've always felt awkward simply trying to articulate what it is I'm doing, this path of discernment, prayer, study, reflection.  "Seeking to discern a call" is how I usually phrase it; it sounds serious, but not too pretentious, or so I've supposed.  My friend asked what I could point to as an indicator that I should be an ordained minister.  There's no single thing upon which I can put my finger, just my abiding love of the church, and my interest in and affinity for all things ecclesial, my desire to serve Jesus faithfully, as well as a desire for work that is vocation, in which I can find fulfillment (something that seems increasingly absent in my current job), and in which I can help others in ways that are truly meaningful.

During the course of our conversation, he said something which I found very helpful.  He said that in his church tradition one would not really speak of being called to be a pastor until such time as a local congregation actually called upon the individual to come and serve them as pastor.  Not everyone who starts down the road to ordination actually becomes ordained, and there are those (teachers, chaplains, etc.) who are ordained but serve the church in ways other than as pastor of a local parish.  I could be ordained and discover that I am not, in fact, called to be a parish rector (I don't really see that being the case, but I am aware of that possibility).  This was not really news to me, but it was the language of "being called" in the context of our conversation that has been helping me think about things in a different light.  Maybe I should stop trying to be so pious about all this, like I know what I am talking about.  Maybe I should just be honest, naivete and all, and say simply, "I'm thinking about becoming a priest; I think I'd really like it."

Some time back, another friend of mine, an Episcopal priest, shared with me a story from when he was in the beginning stages of the ordination process.  He was at an interview with one of the professors of the seminary that he was seeking to be admitted to.  After being asked repeatedly why he was seeking ordination, my friend finally answered, somewhat in desperation, "I just know I want to be a priest."  I'm not sure that I've quite reached it yet, but I feel I'm pretty quickly moving to that place.  So, there it is: I think I'd like to be a priest.




  1. think about what Henry Clay III always said. If you are meant to do it you won't be able to do anything else.

  2. Why bother? Religion is shrinking away faster than a pizza in front of Michael Moore. By 2030, with current trends, there will be one clergy person for every layperson in Mainline Protestantism. With churches closing every day, where will you work? Get a real life and a real job.

    1. Well, there have been people heralding the twilight of religion (and Christianity in particular) for the past three hundred years. Yet with the exception of the Western developed world, the Christian religion continues to expand in both numbers and influence. Even here in the West, I don't think what we're seeing is the death of the Church, but rather the death of a culturally assumed, nominal, 'social Christianity'; and that's probably a good thing, though it will indeed entail a major shift in the shape of the Church (and not just mainline Protestantism).

      But really, that's mostly beside the point. I don't plan to pursue ordination because I think it presents the probability of a lucrative career with a promising long-term outlook. I plan to pursue ordination because I have a desire to serve God and help people to be reconciled to God and one another in Christ, and I believe that this is the way in which God is calling me to do that. Obviously, I and my family will still have to eat, and frankly, I don't think that will be a problem. But ultimately, it's not a decision I'm making based on projections of 'current trends'. That may sound like foolishness to those who have not chosen to reject the world and follow Christ (St. Paul had something to say along those lines), but the way of Christ was never supposed to be just a sensible and respectable way of carrying on business as usual (again, probably a good thing that the old cultural model is falling away). Rather, those who follow Christ believe that it is truly only in Him that we finally come to understand what it means to have 'a real life.'

      Thanks for commenting. Peace.