Ten years ago I joined the United Methodist Church with ordination as an elder (pastor) in the front of my mind and heart. My call into ministry is another story as is my joining the UMC. I knew the journey would be a long one. It is one of the "benefits" I saw in joining the UM. Now, I stand on the other side of ordination after 10 years of working towards this day.
First, in this reflection/advice, I do not want to downplay those who have had negative experiences in the UM process of ordination. My experience was extremely positive but that doesn't mean the process is perfect. I know of many stories but can only speak of my own.
1. I love the UM process because it is long. I know this is one of the big complaints against the process of ordination in the UM. The length of the process allows for challenges, affirmations, others to hear God's call. We often set our eyes on ordination and see the meetings with BoM, answering of the questions, meetings, etc. as hoops to be jumped through. I got lost in that task oriented approach every now and again. I got the most out of the process when I tried to find God in each meeting, each question, in each step. My advice to those still in process--find God's hand in every step of the process.
2. It is easy to downplay certified candidacy, commissioning, etc. as we focus on ordination but there is grace in every step. I rejoiced in becoming a certified candidate, in my commissioning, in my first appointment. I am reminded of the places in the Old Testament where God's people erected an altar to commemorate what God had done in their lives. The various steps in the process became stones of the altar for me. When I interviewed for ordination, I could look at this altar which was being laid stone by stone and rest that God has brought me this far. For those of you in the process, don't miss today's grace working towards the goal of ordination.
3. I was blessed with amazing District committees on ordained ministry and Boards of Ordained Ministry. I have been told how some boards have been combative and confrontational. The committees and boards I was honored to interview with were not that way. Instead I felt these committees and boards were journeying with me and listening to hear God's call on my life with me. I am not sure how much of that atmosphere was the personality of the Board/ Committee or how much my attitude helped create the atmosphere. I came into the process from denominations which didn't support women in ministry. So I was asking the UM to help me hear God's call. I entered each meeting surrendered to God and submitting to the UM. I never tried to prove myself, defend myself, or impress the board/committee that I was exactly what the UM was looking for. I simply shared my story, my experience of God, Scripture, ministry and let that speak for itself.
Ordination is not the end. It is a rest stop on the journey where I am rejoicing in God's grace, just like Commissioning was for me. And now, its back to ministry.