I think it has been a while since I've had and posted about a dilemma in my life. It's not for lack of having a dilemma, I mean, I have PLENTY of those. I guess it has just been a while since I've posted about any of my various dilemmas. So, I thought I would do so today. Here we go:
As a senior, about ready to graduate and enter the First Call process, I have a lot of paperwork to fill out. Information about myself, my gifts and growing edges, what kind of ministry I feel called to, what location I feel called to... a lot of information.
The parts about myself are not too difficult. I know most of the stuff that I need to write down, it's just a matter of making myself sit down and put in the work required to answer all of the questions. The kind of ministry question isn't that tough, either. It's just a matter of sitting down and articulating that I feel most called to be an associate pastor in a staff, ideally with some youth/young adult responsibilities as well as preaching and presiding responsibilities. As far as location, well, here is where the dilemma comes in.
I legitimately feel like I would bloom wherever I'm planted, depending on if I get the type of ministry to which I feel most called. Besides having family and friends in a few places, there is nothing that really ties me to one location. If you look at the First Call paperwork, there is a box that you can check that says that you are open to going anywhere. The next option is open to going anywhere with a few preferences, which you are given the opportunity to list. As I was looking over the paperwork, the "open to all" option seemed like the best option. I felt as if I was giving it up to God by letting the church know that I was willing to go where my gifts would best be utilized. Then I would be opening myself up to an adventure of going just about anywhere in these United States.
But then, some of the Bishops came to campus to meet and talk with students, primarily the seniors. In the panel discussion, one of them mentioned how he was not a big fan of candidates that checked the "open to all" box. He said he knows that students have preferences, and he would like to know what they are. He said he doesn't want to call someone to his synod who said they were open to everything, but then was upset when they got called to his synod, and that they'd rather have some input from the students as to where they see themselves serving. So when it was opened for questions, I raised my hand and asked the other bishops how they felt about checking the "open to all" box. They all agreed with him. They said that they know we have preferences, so why not list them.
After the panel discussion, we had time for some more informal conversation with the bishops at a wine and cheese reception. I gravitated towards one of the bishops from a northeastern state that will remain nameless (although it rhymes with Transylvania). After a couple of glasses of wine, I got to be pretty chatty with him. We talked about how I was thinking of checking the "open to all" box, because I really thought that would give me a greater chance of being placed somewhere based on my ministry preferences, and that I am really open to the adventure of going somewhere new and exciting. He discouraged that, and said that I should put down as preferences the synods in which I know I would most likely get into an urban setting and that had congregations large enough to have multiple staff. He recommended his own synod, which includes the city that means something about love between brothers. He even took my name so that he could remember to request me when the time came. I was extremely excited about the prospect of moving out there for my first call. It would be a great experience. However, after time, I have to admit the excitement ebbed. A part of me thought it would be scary to move so far away from what and who I know. The farthest east I have ever lived would be about 100 miles west of Chicago. I mean, I've visited east. I've been to Rhode Island and some other places out there. But I've never, by myself, moved somewhere so far away from my "home territory. " It kinda freaks me out, although, I have to admit, the idea of living in such a busy, diverse, exciting place makes me giddy sometimes.
So, my dilemma is that since the bishops say we should put preferences, I am going to put preferences. I just don't know what those preferences will be. Do I put down my home synod, where I will be close to family and many friends and in a place where I am well known both because of my dad and also because of my own work within that synod? Or do I put the synod where my good friend Mr Awesome and his family lives? Or do I put the synod in which I did internship, which would be a good place to live and in which to do ministry? Or do I put the synod in which a large portion of my extended family lives, whom I don't get to see very often? Or do I put down some exciting and far away locales that would provide great and diverse ministry experiences? I don't know!!!! I can't put them all, because we are only allowed to put down three regions we prefer, and then three synods that we prefer within those regions, and the places and people are so far spread out that I would inevitably have to leave someone out. Who do I leave out? Who and where do I include? Do I base my decisions on who I'd be close to, or do I base them on where I'd be and who I'd be serving?