Saturday, January 8, 2011

A wordless song...

In the depth of my soul, there is a wordless song...

So wrote Kahlil Gibran and his words resonate in my heart.  I am so thankful for the gifted poets and lyricists who are able to give voice to that song.  Able to reflect with their own words, the astonishing and sustaining song of God that sings us out of darkness and into the light, that sings strength and comfort and joy into our hearts, that guides our journey and moves us out into places we never thought we'd go.

Until recently, while discerning God's call to ministry, I have been set on returning to school full time.  Hoping to obtain my MDiv in a classroom setting, immersed in an ecumenical community of students and faculty.  There is another path to ordered ministry in the United Church besides the full time classroom study route - a distance program - but it hasn't appealed to me.  Except now I have felt a nudge to explore the possibility.  This nudge could just be because I am feeling the weight of an impending, possibly unmanageable, financial struggle...having just learned the Fund that used to automatically cover tuition for United Church Candidates is having hard financial times of its own...thus has substantially reduced tuition funding and made it a needs-based bursary instead of being automatically available to all. 

When I got the email yesterday containing this news, it came as a total surprise because earlier this very week, I'd been told tuition support was secure - needless to say, I felt quite disheartened.  Had a little chat with God that I won't repeat here lest I bruise anyone else's sensibilities, let's just say my inner child wasn't on her best behaviour -  good thing God loves me anyway!!  Between this new obstacle, and the one-step-forward-two-steps-back feel of the discernment process (not my discernment itself, just the process), I said to Dave that it would be ever so much easier if I saw all the technical difficulties as signs that ministry isn't the right path for me and so could turn away feeling satisfied that I gave it my best shot...not everything is meant to be, after all.  But I don't feel that way.  I feel the song of God calling just as loud and clear as ever...come closer, child of mine, I am with you on this journey and we've only just begun...and I feel just as compelled as ever to answer, to follow, to keep walking in faith..

But you, O Lord, know me;
      You see me and test me – my
            heart is with you.
                    (Jeremiah 12:3)
So here I am, exploring the possibility of studying through AST's Summer Distance Program.  (Handbook found here.)  In this program, one studies throughout the year while in a part time ministry position, plus comes together with others in the program for a six week intensive period of study each summer.  As I read the document, I remembered my friend Iain telling me that his pastoral charge was applying to be a Learning Site.

[An FYI sidebar - Iain was my minister when I first came to the church a few years ago, and has come back into my life to share this part of my journey with me.  Valerie is sharing it with me too, of course but as friend, not as minister.  Through discernment, one really needs someone in a kind of mentor/pastoral care/spiritual support kind of role...and our friendship is way too close and personal for her to be that for me.  Was kind of funny when she and I talked about the fact that I needed someone else as minister through my discernment period, we both named Iain almost in the same breath!  He (semi)retired eight years ago (which is when Val came to our church) and since then has been part time minister in a rural charge not too far from my home...he claims to be soon retiring on a full time basis!]

I am not yet convinced the distance program is for me, but it feels to be where the Spirit is moving at the moment, so I am giving it serious consideration.  Iain said his charge is just getting their application in for the designation, and that they are a "sensible, faithful bunch", which certainly sounds appealing!  Plus they apparently have a wonderful manse, so I'd have a whole separate space where I could retreat to study and plan worship in the absence of all the regular distractions of home.  (And, as I told Iain, no doubt Dave would be delighted to ship me elsewhere those times when I am wrestling with God and full of faithful angst!)

This morning, I was filling Moira in on this latest twist in the journey, and admitted that the In Ministry program feels like a much scarier option than full time study.  I don't feel even remotely ready to suddenly be in an active ministry role, even as Student Supply.  Then I added oddly enough, this gives me the sense that this really IS the path I am meant to take.  I heard the sound of was Dave, laughing because taking the scarier path is exactly what he would expect of me.  He said: "we always seem to end up on the hard road, don't we?"  Yes my love, that we do.  But isn't it wonderful!

After all, God is nothing if not challenging.  And it is always by stepping outside of my comfort zone and rising to a challenge that I grow the most and discover I am capable of amazing things I hadn't thought possible.  Sometimes I have the feeling God likes to flaunt her mysterious ways...


menehune said...

Ultimately, you will know what is best for you. Sometimes writing gives clarity to paths to take. Kudos to you for going through this wrestling.

Trekcapri said...

Hi Anne, I found your post very inspiring. In the face of hardship and challenges, I think is when the light shines the brightest.

Thank you so much for sharing your journey with us. It is very inspiring.

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