Friday, February 22, 2013

Reflections on 20 years of ordained service

Right before I left the house yesterday morning my wife, Amy, gave me a card congratulating me on the 20th anniversary of my ordination.  I had actually forgotten the occasion.   But my forgetfulness is no sign of how much I value being a pastor, now called Teaching Elder in the Presbyterian Church.
Yesterday I was treated to many warm congratulations on my Facebook page and two cakes!!  I feel blessed that I received the care of so many.
The day of my ordination—February 21, 1993—turned out to be a snowstorm in Worthington, Minnesota.  The storm didn’t stop us from having a very moving ordination service at my home church, Westminster Presbyterian Church.  A few weeks ago I pulled out a cassette tape of the service and listened to some of it.
One meaningful part of the service was having Bob Burnett preach.  Bob was the pastor of the church in the late 60’s and early 70’s.  He was a social activist preacher—which didn’t sit well with the old guard of the church.   Our family was very close to his family.  I remember spending Friday nights at their farm and going to square dances at their barn.  His preaching made a significant impact on my parents and ultimately our family.
Bob was fired from the church after a congregational meeting where some in the congregation pleaded for him to stay and others pleaded for him to be fired.  We wouldn’t have that type of meeting today!  He left the ministry and the Presbyterian church missed receiving the many gifts he could have shared as a pastor.
I invited him back to preach at my ordination service—the first time he stepped into Westminster Presbyterian church in about 20 years.  Right before the ordination commission processed into the sanctuary, the Executive Presbyter asked someone else why Bob had been asked to preach at the service.  I guess someone on the Presbytery’s Committee on Ministry instructed him to ask the question. 
Memories die hard in the church.  This is the church—it’s both deeply flawed and deeply powerful.  This church is the one I am called to serve as a pastor.  It’s the church that God desires to use to transform individual lives and the world.
One of my mentors shared that day that my work as a pastor would not always be fun but would always be glorious.  I can’t say that every moment of the last 20 has been glorious, but many have.  I cherish the experiences I had with the people at Community Presbyterian Church in Plainview.  I’m enjoying the challenge of building a large, vibrant Presbyterian church in the north Metro.  Glorious?  Not always, but almost always.
Twenty years is a just a pit stop on this journey of ordained service.  I look forward to many more years of ministry.  I believe the church is the hope for the world and will never stop believing.

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