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April 22, 2008
Call

Associate Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church, Baton Rouge, LA.  More to follow!  Check out www.tlcbr.org.


April 21, 2008
Call Day Q&A

I get a lot of questions about the Call process, so here's a basic explanation.

Let's start with our presuppositions about the process. First, we believe that the Call comes not from man but from God. It is extended through a congregation, but it is God's Call. So there is no such thing as a "bad" call, or even one that's "better or worse". There might be one that a pastor prefers to serve, and one that he does not prefer. Along with this presupposition goes the knowledge and belief that this is not a "hiring" process. In the Lutheran Church, pastors are not hired, they are called. Hiring comes from men, a call comes from God. So long as a pastor is faithful (carrying out the duties he promised to do in his ordination/installation vow), he cannot be fired. (Of course, there are congregations who get around this by cutting off the paycheck. That usually proves effective.) Second, that the Call is not something a man seeks but something that seeks him. This is one reason for the secrecy surrounding the first Call - because your first Call should show a reliance on God and a childlike trust that He will call you to exactly the right place - and He doesn't need your help to do so. The job of the placement committee is not to determine where you should go; it is to determine where God wants to use you. This could be multiple locations, by the way - and then the placement committee will choose one out of several options.

OK, for those of you who still are headache-free, let's see if we can take care of that.

The Call process begins in earnest during the last year at the seminary. Early in the year, the candidate fills out several forms. These detailed forms ask everything from worship preferences to what geographical location the candidate would prefer. After completing the forms, the candidate has two interviews. These interviews are opportunity to discuss the answers and preferences expressed on the forms. These preferences are taken into account during the Call process.

There is also a Certification Interview with a committee from the seminary faculty. This is not the high-pressure interview you might have heard about from times past, where a professor might hand you a Hebrew Old Testament, turn to some obscure passage, and say "Parse and translate." Rather, this is a collegial discussion which gives the candidate the opportunity to give witness to his faith. The object is not to "catch" the candidate saying something wrong, but to rejoice at the confession expressed by the candidate. Following the successful completion of this interview, the faculty committee will recommend to the entire faculty body (in their April meeting) that the candidate be certified for the ordained ministry.

In January, February, and even March there are interviews with congregations - but only those congregations calling pastors for team ministry, and for the reason that pastoral candidates need to be able to work well with the particular team in that place. Sole ministry positions do not interview.

The Placement Director at the seminary will choose a placement for you. About two weeks before Call Day, he will meet with representatives from the Fort Wayne seminary and representatives from the District Presidents and they will try to distribute calls fairly. And a few days before Call Day, there is a meeting of all the District Presidents, who have the sole and final decision about placement. Often they will follow the recommendations of the seminaries, but they are not bound to those recommendations. This is the meeting where calls are actually assigned.

It used to be that you would know nothing about your call until you received the envelope on Call Day. That is no longer the case. While there is no certainty until your Call is announced, it is a more open process than it has been in the past. The Director of Placement invites us to talk with him about his thoughts for our placement. As I said last time, I have a pretty good idea where I'm going. Yet, there's always a possibility it was changed by the District Presidents when they met this past weekend. What I don't know is anything beyond a broad overview of the position. I will find out all the small details tomorrow night.

On Call Day, there is a special worship service at the Seminary at 7:00 PM. The candidates, faculty, staff, and guests gather in the chapel and after the sermon the Calls are distributed. Each candidate is called by name, district, church, and position, and handed a sealed envelope. So at this point, you know where you're going, but you don't know anything about the position other than the title. The hardest part of the Call Day service is waiting until the end to open that envelope! The rule is you can't open it until you're outside. Inside are the Call documents, which include a detailed position description - especially useful if you are called as an Associate or Assistant Pastor with a particular focus - financial information, housing information, and other details.

The Call is now given, but the candidate is ineligible to accept it until after graduation. (Apparently we do have to finish our classes... we've got 4 weeks left.) A letter of intent to accept is sent to the calling congregation, followed by a letter of acceptance after graduation. Some people have asked me if you can turn down a call. Well, you can... but your certification is conditional on accepting the call you're assigned. You'll be a Seminary-trained layperson looking for a job. Best of luck to you.

Tomorrow, if I am unable to post an update, you can check the seminary's website (www.csl.edu) after 9:00 PM CDT to see a list of calls. Of course, you can always watch the service live from the website as well, as long as the seminary's internet connection holds up.


April 14, 2008
So, really, what's up?

Ok, it's been two years since the last update (except for that little blurb about RSS feeds). It would probably be good to recap the past two years before Call day gets here next week, and people start flocking to my website.

The last post here tells about our new vicarage assignment at St. Luke's Lutheran Church, Oviedo, Florida. I noted that I was looking forward to it. Well, I wasn't disappointed at all. The year at St. Luke's was easily the best year of my life so far.

Lacey and I left St. Louis in July 2006, being guided to get out less than a half-hour before a major storm caused a great deal of wind damage, cutting power in some places for more than a week and blowing the windows out on the old Busch stadium. When arrived at our new home across from the church, we were immediately struck by two things: how welcoming the people were, and how hot and humid Florida was! The heat and humidity lasted until about October 15, but the people continued to be welcoming year-round.

For me, there really wasn't much time for a learning curve. It would be like learning how to swim by studying about it in books, arriving at the lake, receiving some last minute instruction (this is "water", try not to sink) and jumping in. Don't hear me wrong here, I thought my introduction to the church was the best possible. But the fact is that St. Luke's is a large, active congregation, and they don't have time or resources to hold the vicar's hand for several months every year. The vicar simply has to be ready to jump right in.

In September, we had finally saved enough to afford Disney tickets, and we bought two annual passes - a decision I've never regretted. We would typically visit WDW about 2 times a month, sometimes more (especially at first!). My favorite parks were Magic Kingdom and Epcot (tied), with MGM - now Disney Hollywood Studios - coming in third (bumped up by my favorite show, "Fantasmic!") and Animal Kingdom a distant fourth. It's definite that I was more eager to go than Lacey, judging by the number of times the answer to my 5-year-old-like pleas was "Not today." Every once in a while the sad puppy dog eyes would work and we'd go anyway, but she quickly developed an incredible resistance to my well-practiced charms. Still, we went often enough that I managed to develop a love of all things Disney, and I eagerly look forward to our next visit - however many years away that is. My pictures and videos will help me cope until then.

As much as I liked our theme park visits, though, the year was not about Disney, nor is that what made it what I call the "best year of my life" (though Disney certainly provided a "Year of a Million Dreams"). It was the ministry and people of St. Luke's that moved me.

I was involved in nearly all facets of the church while I was there. (Lacey, serving as DCE Intern, was also very involved... but I'll let her write her own blog about that if she wants.)  I preached just about every other week, led Bible studies and devotions, made hundreds of shut-in and hospital visits, and - of course - never had a shortage of meetings to attend. I had four pastors to learn from, each with his own style. I was able to see what a dynamic, active, functional team ministry looks like. Each person on the ministry team was willing to state his/her own opinions but would not inflexibly hold to them. Each was willing to try other people's ideas - and everyone listened to everyone else. Even on the difficult days (and there were some difficult days), there was still love, respect, and collegiality. It is a model I hope to emulate throughout my life.

I'm going to let that be enough for now... there will certainly be an update a week from now, if not before. Regarding the Call: Lacey and I do have some idea where we may be going, but we're not at liberty to discuss it yet. You can watch the service live on the Seminary's website (Tuesday April 22, 7:00 PM Central time). You can find information here about Call Day and its webcast, especially as we get closer. There will also be a list on the sem's website soon after the service. And of course, I will post details about the church and the ministry to which I'm called here on this page.


April 3, 2008
Added RSS Feed

In preparation for Call day and the inevitable discussions which will take place here, I've added an RSS feed so people can quickly see when something's been updated.  If you've been checking this page every day for the last 2 years waiting for an update... well, now there's an easier way.

And thanks for being so loyal!  (Or, perhaps, creepy.)


May 15, 2006

New start date for vicarage: around mid-July.

St. Luke's, Oviedo, is a very large congregation, with 1300 people every weekend.  They have a pre-K through 8 school with about 700 people enrolled.  The Lutheran Haven retirement home is next to the church.  They operate a number of services for the community, including a free clinic.  You can find out more by going to their website, http://www.stlukes-oviedo.org.

Lacey and I will have three bedrooms, so visitors are most welcome.  We only ask that you call us first, to make sure there's room.  Just make reservations!  It's like a hotel, only less cost!

I'd like to say that we have mixed feelings about heading out, but I don't think I do.  I want to go!  There's nothing holding me back.  I mean, it'll suck to move (cause I hate moving), but look where I'm moving TO!

If you were in my wedding party, I have good news for you.  Lacey and I are FINALLY getting around to choosing attendant gifts.  We thought that might be appropriate for our one-year anniversary, coming up this Sunday.  Lacey's already picked hers; I guess it's up to me now.

Finals are mostly done.  Just one class and one paper left to go.  After that, I'm done with classes until September 2007... the longest period I have ever gone (since Preschool) without attending classes.  How will I survive?  What will I do?  I think I'll be ok.  Thank God there are a couple reports due during vicarage, or I might forget how terribly important reports are, and how much better it is to take tests and write reports than it is to be out with God's people proclaiming His message to them...  Hmm.  On second thought, never mind.


April 25, 2006

Lacey and I have been placed at St. Luke's Lutheran Church, Oviedo, Florida!  It's on the northeast side of Orlando.

We should be starting around August 1.

More details will follow.


March 29, 2006

So I figured I should write some kind of update before an entire year went by without one.

Here's a summary of What's Up? at the moment:

Lacey and I will be placed in our internship/vicarage on April 25.  We don't know where it will be, but we do know that they've found a church where we can serve together.  On the evening of the 25th, I'm going to send out an e-mail with details about where we're going.  If you want to be included in this e-mail, please send me a note.  I'll put you on the list.

We've decided to spend this summer here in St. Louis, working our normal jobs full-time to save up some money.

Speaking of saving money, after months of saving, I finally had enough to upgrade my old computer.  I got a top-of-the-line system for $550.  (It's great when you buy the parts separately and build it yourself.)  It took a while to study the components enough to place the order - everything's got to be compatible, you know - but a comparable system would probably run $1500-2000 or more if I ordered it retail.  I'm going to have a high-end dual-core processor and 1GB of RAM.

Speaking of saving money (deja vu!), did you see this hilarious SNL sketch?  Sorry that only the transcript is available at the moment, no video.

That's all for now.  Perhaps it will be less than 11 months before I update this page again.