Getting to the point where I was ready to put myself forward for ministry training has been a long one. My story at Launceston Pilgrim really began last year.
Last year was my first year as a Candidate with the Uniting Church. I am only the second person from Tasmania to participate in a regional formation program, and the first from Launceston. The formation of ministers in the VicTas Synod of the Uniting Church is a three-year commitment on behalf of both the Synod, the Candidate and the Candidates’ family and friends. Even with only part-time University theology subjects, the formation process is all consuming as you are constantly evolving towards the end goal of professional ministry. I know that my use of professional would have at least one of the Candidates annoyed with me, but coming as I do from a background of lay leadership and ministry within the Uniting Church I appreciate the gifts and strengths of both. The Uniting Church is amazing in its upholding of both and welcoming of its members into a plethora of roles.
Why I use the word professional ministry, is partly because of my love of classic literature (Jane Austin and George Eliot), and because it is a learned and academic service to which we are called on behalf of congregations and most importantly God. All ministers lay and ordained within the Uniting Church are asked to be “lifelong learners”. My learning here at Pilgrim was to experience firsthand how a larger church can and should work. There are different calls upon ministers in placement as to what their work is. Some ministers are called to service using: administration skills, accounting, interpersonal skills, mediation, and counselling, artistic or organisational skills. This is apart from the ability to contextually teach and interpret the bible for their congregations, run engaging and meaningful worship services, discernment of the directions of the Spirit within their congregations and have at least a good idea of both theological and Uniting Church sacraments, doctrine and practices!
Towards ordination, my journey has seen me travel through a Period of Discernment (POD), Selection (a process of going from Congregation to Presbytery to Synod vetting). Then three years of Formation and Academic training (which I am half way through!) and the still to come all-important Exit Panel, which determines readiness for ordination before the Placements Committee works with you to discern where you will be in ministry.
One of the most important points that I have learned from my Candidate placement, is that you do not just learn from the ministers to whom you have been placed with, (although yes, I have learnt a LOT from Rod!) but you also learn from the people within the congregations that you are placed. Shown in the way they treat each other, by what they say about each other and how they live the way of Christ. None of us is perfect, but perfection takes time and we have only one life to live. Just as I chose to answer God’s call on my life to be in ministry, I also choose to answer your hospitality and am delighted to walk for a time with you.
As mentioned, last year my placement was with Launceston Pilgrim under Rod Peppiatt’s supervision. This year it is with Uniting in Launceston, with Nicole Day as my supervisor. In placements such as these, Candidates are encouraged to expand their knowledge and experience of the Uniting Church and its Agencies and the role of ordained ministry within each. Sometimes it can be very clear as to the role of a minister, and other times it is a place of mystery, faith and trial and error. As in all uncertain things, it is a place for growth, from which we as Candidates are formed into ministers for God.