Faith Works 10-10-15
Vocations & decisions
So, how did you end up becoming a minister?
That question has been asked of me before, and it came up in an interesting context last week, intriguingly enough outside of a church context entirely.
It was someone who knows me in a different guise, wearing one of the other hats I wear around our community. They knew I could have "been" a number of other things, vocationally speaking, and wanted to know why I chose the ministry.
In fact, ministry chose me. Which is another way of saying "I was called."
To back up a bit, I was originally, starting college, looking in different directions. The Marine Corps had helped me refine that, with some clarity around how good of a platoon leader I would have been.
Staff Sergeant Camire was firmly of the opinion that I'd be a terrible one, and he was a pretty sharp NCO. "You don't know how to react, Gill, you stop and think. That will get a lot of good Marines killed." Excellent point, sergeant instructor.
I looked at a wide variety of career options, many of which I probably would have been perfectly adequate in doing. And most of which I've ended up dabbling in, as an amateur, a community volunteer or representative for, an occasional contributor with… Social work and criminal justice and psychology and hospital care and urban planning and journalism and community organizing. I went to trainings for that last in 1985 & 1987, at the same time a guy named Barry from Chicago was going to Campaign for Human Development programs, but if we were ever in the same church basement I don't recall (darn it!).
How did I end up going to seminary and becoming a minister of the Gospel? Because doors kept opening in that direction, and closing in others. Looking back, it seems clear and unambiguous and downright linear. At the time, trying to look ahead, it was confusing and uncertain and groping, step by step.
Both perspectives are true.
Up to, and into seminary in Indianapolis, those other options kept tugging at me, but they never had a real pull on me. As I grew into an identity as a preacher, a parson, a padre, those steps always had some momentum behind them, a motive force that grew – even as the church I was serving had the building burn down before two years had passed, even when my own denominational staff were tugging me in some odd directions. To be the minister for a parish, pastor to a congregation, just kept making more sense.
I can talk about my sense of God speaking to me, and that's another column, I suspect -- but for the "call to ministry," it was more what Parker Palmer refers to as "way will open." You often don't see it clearly until you look back at it, but it's clear enough step by step moving forward. The "way will open," and you simply move into the light.
Archaeology is still an important part of my life. I get to be out tomorrow with some of my best friends, leading tours at Octagon State Memorial for the last "open house" there at Parkview and 33rd St. of that amazing 2,000 year old earthen architecture, Sunday afternoon from Noon to 4 pm (or after, if you get there soon enough). I don't have summer openings to dig much, but I keep my trowel sharp.
And I'm in hospitals often as a pastoral care provider, working with mental health as you see in my commentary here and elsewhere for our Mental Health and Recovery Board for Knox & Licking County, and I chair the Granville Board of Zoning and Building Appeals, which is narrow-gauge urban policy and city planning, but it's about all I need to try to comprehend.
All that, and I get to write. Like this column. What I realize, in retrospect, is that God said to me "Choose ministry, and I'll give you a little of everything else." I could have been other things in this life, but in any one other choice, that's probably all I would have done. In ministry, as the Apostle Paul says to the Corinthians, I get to "become all things to all people."
And that's more than enough!
Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County. Tell him what your vocation is and how you found it at email@example.com, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.