I have long felt a call towards religious leadership. But it has only been much more recently that I have discerned God's call towards ordained ministry as a Christian - and within the United Church of Christ specifically.
When I was a little girl, I remember being with my mother in the Unitarian Universalist church of my upbringing and looking up at the minister high in the pulpit wearing his black robes and speaking about something that seemed interesting to me at the time, but which I have long forgotten, and I remember thinking to myself, "That's what I want to be when I grow up." To me it seemed amazing that there was a job in the world focused entirely on helping people live more fully and think more deeply about the meaning of life. It was a real no-brainer to me at the time; who wouldn't want to have such a humbling and intellectually curious position?
But later on, in my youth and young adulthood, I grew dissatisfied with my Unitarian Universalist faith and my interest in the ministry vanished when I fell away from that particular denomination. It had inspired a fascination with religion, for which I am eternally grateful, but I never felt that I was able to move beyond intellectual fascination into a more spiritual faith without moving outside of Unitarian Universalism. In college, I made a documentary film about Unitarian Universalism, but found my classes in Hebrew Bible and Medieval Religious Debate far more intellectually - and even spiritually - engaging.
I was looking for a text to dive into, a tradition to hold onto, and a community that would hold onto me.
So it was in college that I found myself in the strange position of craving more religious structure at the same time that so many of my peers appeared to be pulling away from their own religious structures and craving a more Unitarian Universalist-looking freedom. What was I to make of this?
The answer to that question was, and is, the beginning of my true call to ministry.
I feel called to minister to all God's children - but especially to those who are not entirely sure about Jesus and God and the Bible but who are still curious or craving something spiritual that they may not have words for. They are standing on the doorsteps of our churches, peeking in, but are too hesitant to enter. They may call themselves "spiritual but not religious," "agnostic," and sometimes even "atheist." They believe in Love but aren't so sure about God. They know there is more to life than consumerism but don't know how to actually live that life. They crave the story but are scared to hear it from a teller they don't trust anymore.
I believe that my own pull towards the God I see in the story of Jesus Christ - with the freedom and openness I bring from a UU background - is one that may help others move towards the church once again. My own viewpoint and lens is one that I think could add value to the wider body of Christ and help churches reach those outsiders whose perspective is one that they may not understand.
So many churches see themselves as open-minded, progressive, non-literalistic, universalist, etc. and wonder why visitors don't immediately understand that. This is where I think I can help. My own faith journey and path to ministry has taught me that there is a critical balance we must seek between being explicitly open-minded and preserving the power and impact of the stories we tell through the cultivation of mystery. Too often churches weigh too heavily towards the explicitly open-minded side, which runs the risk of suppressing real spiritual encounter, or they weigh too heavily towards simply following tradition and telling the stories, which runs the risk of perpetuating theological misunderstanding between church insiders and outsiders.
Finding the balance is not easy to do. But I believe that as communities we must strive to find this balance in order to create a safe, nurturing, and spirit-filled environment for so many of today's wandering pilgrims - who need us to do exactly that. I pray that I can help a community that, by the grace of God, will do so. That is the heart of my call.