Comings and Goings is a blog written by Theology, Formation, and Evangelism Director Charles B. "Chip" Hardwick as he travels throughout the church. God is on the move out and about in the world, working to redeem all things in Jesus Christ. As we join this mission, by the power of the Spirit we see God on the move. This blog contains glimpses of how Chip finds this to be true in his comings and goings.
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On Monday and Tuesday I was in Nashville spending time with members of the Company of New Pastors, which is a program coordinated by Theology and Worship (one of the ministries of the PC(USA) with whom I work closely). This program helps seminaries transition into ministry by encouraging spiritual disciplines (like reading the Bible and praying) and small groups. These disciplines and groups begin in students’ last year of seminary, and then after graduation continue on for about four more years, with the same disciplines and newly configured groups. (This program is part of the Presbyterian Mission Agency's efforts to develop transformational leaders.)
Last year when I attended this event, I was discouraged by how many conversations I had with recent graduates who had not yet found a call, and who were despairing about their possibilities. The word “hopeless” is too strong, but the disappointment among them was visceral. Of course there were many at the event last year who had begun serving in ministry, but the conversations I remember the most were with people disheartened by their apparent prospects.
What a difference a year makes! This year it seems the vast majority of people I spent time with had already found a call, and they were beaming as they described them to me. One recent grad couldn’t stop smiling as he told me that he had been at his church for about eight weeks, and that they’ve already stopped treating him like “a shiny new toy that can’t be broken.” They were looking specifically for a straight-out-of-seminary pastor, and he’s delighted to be there. Another is working in a city she loves, at a church she loves, with a head pastor she loves. Another I spoke with mentioned he hasn’t done any weddings or funerals yet, but he knows they’re coming, and he can’t wait.
Even the folks who hadn’t received a call yet smiled as they told me about where they hope God will lead them. In one remarkable conversation, a newly-single woman who will soon be examined by her presbytery talked about how free she felt to serve anywhere, now that her children are in college. She longs to help people connect what happens on Sunday to what happens on Monday through Friday at their work place, and is excited to see where that might happen.
At the conference center where the gathering was held, there are two sides of an archway with words carved above. One says, “Expect Great Things From God” and the other says, “Attempt Great Things For God.” My impression is that these recent grads are doing both—and I’m grateful to have seen it!