To the Newly Ordained Pastors….Why I’m Afraid For You.

It truly was an amazing Ordination Service.

Hundreds of United Methodists, a great cloud of witnesses, gathered together to honor and celebrate those who had bravely stepped forward to answer God’s call on their lives and enter ordained ministry.

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It was such a powerful and moving service that I wouldn’t have been surprised if a white dove had descended from the ceiling. Because the Holy Spirit was surely present… hovering, and filling, and moving, and working. Everyone there could feel it.

In the Bishop’s hands as she knelt to wash the feet of those newly ordained, the Holy Spirit was there.

In the songs we sang. and the music we heard, the Holy Spirit was there.

In the babies and children who clapped their hands, the Holy Spirit was there.

In those who watched from the balcony, who heard God calling them into ministry too, and who made their way up to the altar in tears, the Holy Spirit was there.

It was the same Holy Spirit who hovered over the chaos of creation; the same Holy Spirit who came down upon Jesus 2000 years ago in the River Jordan; the same Holy Spirit who showed up powerfully thirty years ago, when my husband was ordained.

Do you believe that God has called you to the life and work of ordained ministry? the Bishop asked.

I do so believe came the unanimous response.

I do so believe that too.

I believe that God called each of you.

I believe that each of you who knelt before the Bishop have already knelt before God’s throne.

I believe that each of you who had hands laid upon you in prayer already have God’s own hand powerfully laid upon your life.

I believe that for every person who hugged and clapped and cried for you, there are already a thousand angels singing for joy for you.

Because I know that you, like my husband, have been called, and set apart and sent for God’s Holy work, and you entered the ministry because you have a yearning to mend broken hearts, and bind up the wounded, and try to make a difference in this hurting world. I know this.

But I’m afraid for you.

I’m afraid lest you become one of the wounded. I’m afraid that as you rise to your feet and leave that spirit-filled sanctuary behind, the world and (dare I say it) your churches might steal your joy, and cause you to question your call.

And if that day should come, I pray that you can find your sanctuary again, that you will remember that it is Almighty God who has called you, that you will still be able to feel God’s Holy Spirit strengthening and sustaining and upholding you, and that when you hear words that discourage and deter, the truth of God’s words to you will be louder in your ear and stronger in your heart….

you are my child whom I dearly love; I find happiness in you.

It was a privilege to see you ordained. May God bless you every day and fill you with the Holy Spirit as you seek to make disciples, preach the Word, and answer that wonderful call on your life.

You are brave.

And you will make a difference in the world.

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8 thoughts on “To the Newly Ordained Pastors….Why I’m Afraid For You.

  1. Zach Oaster

    As I was reading this I realized that I must give pastors far too little credit sometimes. I spent over 15 years in full-time ministry (not ordained), and it (to use your words) wounded me in ways that I may spend the rest of my life trying to reconcile. It stole my joy in ways that make it challenging for me to empathize sometimes with people in the church. I walked away.

    But, you’re also the second person in as many days to remind me that my story so far is not the end, and that there may be a time that I can return to such a role, maybe healed, maybe reconciled enough to remember that call. The door isn’t closed, but it still feels so heavy and difficult to move — maybe stuck closed for a while. That is a big maybe.

    That said however, I know that many of my old friends who were ordained Sunday, and many who have served for longer than I have, know full well the role that they are entering into. They know well the hurt and suffering that the church can bring upon their heads, and yet they foray into that field knowing that they will literally be hit with a volley of fire every. single. time. It is something that I could only stand for a while. It is something that I marvel at when pastors can stay standing in that mess and still, often, have soft hearts, empathy, forgiveness, and all those things that I can barely muster even on a good day.

    I too grieved each time I stood on Sunday during the ordination service when a friend was prayed over. I knew what they were in for, and I knew that they would suffer deeply due to their life choice in that moment to commit to be a servant. Yet, I could not ignore the amazement that I also felt, knowing that they also knew. I realized that I give pastors far too little credit sometimes.

    1. Glenys Post author

      Thank you Zach, for your heartfelt & thoughtful comments. God is the author of new things and can either wrench or gently prise open doors that are stuck. Be encouraged.

  2. Brenda Hendley

    Your words are so true. Brandon and I were just discussing how difficult it is to serve sometimes….egos, competition, “we’ve never done it this way before” , all play into ministry. I’ve said that whenever you’re on the right path and doing something great for God, the enemy will ALWAYS try to discourage and defeat. AND many times it’s a few in the Christian community or churches that are the worst stumbling blocks. Growing up in a minister’s home, I learned this very early. What I had to remind Brandon (and myself) is that we’re all human and come together in community wounded, broken and with baggage. It affects how we work together. We must keep our eye on the prize. That prize is reaching out to others and seeing the life changing effects from our love, acceptance and care. Please keep Spirit Journey in your prayers. We’re already encountering some “roadblocks” by critics, but we shall overcome with Gods help!

    1. Glenys Post author

      Oh Brenda, I will, I will! You truly are engaged in amazing work for God’s kingdom. If God is for us, who shall stand against us?

  3. Lisa Batten

    Well said. Prayers for us all, lay or clergy, as we serve a broken church filled with broken people. I face, like so many others, the frustration and heartbreak of serving a church that does not seem to be interested in the people I cam called to serve, many of whom are on the margins of life and certainly at the margins of the church.
    I find it helps to remind myself of who calls me to whom I am called.

    1. Glenys Post author

      Oh Lisa…what a heartbreak for you! Jesus served on the margins and so you are certainly called there too. It’s just so hard when the ones on the inside don’t see it 🙁


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