I’m Certified…

The last time I wrote about the ordination process, here on HebrewDawn, it was to say I was withdrawing from it. A lot has happened since then, I suppose there’s some updating to do between that post and sharing that I’m certified ready to receive a call in the PC(USA)…

After my last post, I received an unexpected message from a very dear friend who served on the CPM (Committee on Preparation for Ministry) at the time. They informed me that the committee had received my letter and wanted to be sure this was what I really wanted. They felt confident that I would someday finish this process, but understood that I was not in a place at that time to pursue accepting a call (hello, I had a three year old and a baby). They wanted me to know that if I proceeded with withdrawing from the process but felt the call to finish the ordination process later, that I would have to start all over.

What would that mean for me?

1. Apply with my church and then the CPM to become an inquirer (again). If approved during my meeting with the committee, I would have to wait six months to a year before I could apply for candidacy. During this time I would undergo a psychological evaluation, and have an annual consultation with my CPM liaison.

2. Apply with my church and then the CPM to become a candidate (again). In order to do this, I would need to complete the required paperwork, prepare seven essays (my understanding of Christian vocation in the reformed tradition, a statement of faith, an analysis of at least one concept from my faith statement, a statement of what it means to be presbyterian, a statement of self-understanding, a statement of my understanding of the task of teaching elders and my specific gifts for ministry).

3. If approved by the CPM to be a candidate, I would then have to go before presbytery (again) to be examined. If approved by them too, I would have to wait at least 1 year before I could apply to be certified ready to receive a call and complete some additional steps.

3. I would need to retake all FIVE ordination exams: Bible Content, Biblical Exegesis, Theological Competence, Worship and Sacraments, and Church Polity.

4. Complete a pastoral internship at a church, complete a CPE (clinical pastoral education) program, as well as the required personal and supervisor evaluations for each internship/program.

5. Throughout the waiting and work of the prior steps I would need to ensure I had an annual consultation at least once every twelve months with my CPM liaison.

6. Once the prior steps were completed I would apply to the CPM to become certified ready to receive a call. In order to do this, I would need to complete the required paperwork, prepare a PIF (personal information form, aka a Presbyterian pastor’s resume), write my statement of faith, and prepare an exegetical sermon.

When I realized I would have to repeat five steps that I had completed ages ago for something others and myself believed I was called to do felt crazy. Why would I withdraw from this process if I was going to pursue finishing it at some point? So the decision was made to stay in the process, and complete step 6.

I was ready to do this last year, but a massive project at work put all of it on pause until it was complete. I knew that being a SME (subject matter expert) for our conversion team and anything additional was just too much. If you or someone you know works for a financial institution and has been through a core conversion you know what massive undertaking that was. Once the conversion project was done and I felt like I could breath, a pandemic hit and the world stopped. As weeks turned into months, I realized I was not willing to wait anymore. By September, I was determined to finish what God called had me to start several years earlier.

October was a busy month of pulpit supply, work, Girl Scouts leadership, waiting to learn what school would look like in November for my kids, and finally meeting with the CPM (Committee on Preparation for Ministry) to apply to be certified. To say I was stressed, worried, and anxious would be an understatement.

Not being one to give up (easily), I prayed a lot, wrote a lot, and did what was needed. On October 27th, I met with the POJ Committee on Preparation for Ministry at 1:30 over zoom. This was a meeting with the CPM like none other. Rather than waiting outside to be called in, I sat in a virtual waiting room not knowing who would be in the meeting other than my liaison and pastor. To my surprise, there were three very familiar, smiling faces, of people I’ve known from my time at Union Presbyterian Seminary. There were other familiar faces, some new, and there was a screen to provide me some space and distance for comfort.

After some questions, conversations, faith journey sharing (for those unfamiliar with my Buddhist background), and feedback, I was sent back to the virtual waiting room. There I “sat” while the CPM deliberated on whether or not I should be certified ready to receive a call. Unlike the physical waiting room at the POJ office, where I would sit with my pastor, I sat alone waiting and wondering what would happen next. After what felt like an eternity, but was probably 5-10 minutes, I was welcomed back into the meeting. I received the wonderful news that the CPM agreed that I should be certified ready to receive a call.

What does this mean now?

Now I must find a call (aka a job, for you non-Presbyterians) so that I can get ordained. My PIF is now up on the CLC (Church leadership connection), which is kind of like an online dating platform for pastors and churches. If my PIF matches the needs/wants of a churches MIF (ministry information form), we’ll get connected to see if they should interview me. In the meantime, I’m going to keep praying, doing pulpit supply, and keep hope alive that the right call is out there somewhere.

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