Wednesday, September 17, 2014
Motivation Toward Ministry, Part 3
In Parts #1 and #2, we created this chart and defined external/internal and history/future as dimensions of our possible call or deepest motivations.
Let me place myself on this chart and explain my deepest motivations, how I experience my call.
I put myself above the line in the "external" area. I experienced it as a "Call" from outside of myself. For the most part, I heard that call from members of the congregation where I was a member. They kept telling me that I should consider ministry. When I audited a Winter Intensive class at Meadville Lombard (it was Ethics of a Democratic Faith, taught by Ron Engel), I was told by my classmates that I should not be auditing the class, but to jump in and go to seminary.
I have to say that I never experienced this call as coming directly from God. I rebel against the thought that God does career planning. Jobs and careers all over the world are distributed along gender and race lines that are signs of oppression. If God is choosing our careers, then He should be sued.
I do think that the proverbial "hand of God" is at work when a religious people call out one of their own for religious leadership -- some sort of spirit-filled discernment happening there.
On the other hand, and this may be why I put myself so close to the line separating the internal from the external, is that I am aware that ministry is part of my family's traditions. I felt that pull when I was young. As I review my family's history, I can see that I carried the genes that favored public leadership, and that usually took the form, for men, of ministry. So when I was "called," it was no surprise.
I never engaged in that story of how I resisted the call as long as I could, and came to it reluctantly. That story seems a part of the standard narrative for many of my Methodist friends in seminary, a sign that their call was authentic, and not their ego talking. Sure, my ego is involved.
I place myself on the History/Tradition side of horizontal continuum. I think of entering the ministry as stepping into a long line of liberal ministers, marching rank by rank, out of the past and into the future, each generation with its own work to do. Just look at the name of this blog. I remember the men of my family who came before me, their mentors, and my own mentors within Unitarian Universalism. The strongest influence on me was my late mother, who was not a minister, but a devoted churchwoman and community activist. I still often check with her for what I should be thinking about.
However, I have come to focus more on what the future requires of us who carry on this tradition. Earlier in my ministry, I think I was focused more on what it would take to keep old school Unitarian Universalism alive. Now, I try to think more about what the future demands of us -- what specific truths do we carry out of the past and into the future.
That little star on the grid above is only where I place myself. Obviously, there is lots of room there for the stories of other ministers and religious leaders. Where would you place yourself?