Honoring and celebrating the call to ministry since 1933.
Week of Ministry was created in 1933 as a reminder to honor and celebrate the call to ministry. Every year during Week of Ministry (usually the second week in October), Pension Fund provides resources for congregations and ministry workers to
Show appreciation for those in ministry
Encourage congregations to celebrate their pastor
Foster relationships among ministry peers
Support and encourage those who might be interested in a ministry career in the future
Like fingerprints, no two ministries will ever look alike. Today's ministries are reaching out to others in unprecedented ways. Here are some great examples of #ModernMinistry.
From a jail cell to a thriving ministry
When I received a call from Forest Park Christian Church to be their minister, I was excited for so many different reasons. The opportunity for a fresh start, the excitement of coming home, and the ability to put the past behind me.
Before I was called to ministry, I was a commercial banker. There were several loans that went bad, and I was implicated in a scheme to defraud the bank. There were many meetings and several investigations, but nothing materialized. You could describe me in many negative terms as a banker: lazy, negligent, over-confident and naïve…but not crooked or criminal. The things they say I did were simply not true. Nevertheless, the church I was serving at the time of the allegations told me that they loved me, but it was time for them to find another pastor.
When Forest Park called me, the allegations were in the past. I wasn't facing any more legal troubles, and I was ready to put that chapter of my life where it belonged — in the past. The church had just been through a pretty rough patch as well. They wanted to put the past behind them. There was excitement and spirit-led energy when we gathered on Sunday morning and throughout the week at various activities.
After 3 months, I get a call from my attorney. We thought this issue had gone away, but it had come back with a vengeance. My options were as follows: Plea to something I did not do to limit my time in prison to just two years, OR roll the dice on a trial and spend 15 years behind bars. I was devastated, but the choice was very clear. I have a wife and three daughters that I was unwilling to spend 15 years away from.
I met with my board chair the following Sunday and gave him the best two options I could think of. I can either resign now, or I can stay on until the church finds someone to replace me. I will never forget the next moment. The board chair was a retired general from the Army. He looked me, slammed his hand on the desk, and exclaimed, "YOU ARE OUR PASTOR! YOU ARE OUR PASTOR NOW, AND YOU ARE OUR PASTOR WHEN YOU GET BACK!"
Forest Park didn't hesitate in their commitment to me and to my family. They recognized that I would not have committed these crimes. They knew that I had to go away, and they came together as church to be the face and presence of God for me and my entire family. In prison, I received so much correspondence from my church that I had a separate pile just for my mail. My email inbox was always full from church members keeping in touch with me.
I came back 2 years ago, and currently the church could not be in a better place. We have doubled our attendance for Sunday morning. We are mission focused and continually searching for new ways to take this God-fueled energy out into the world. Forest Park Christian Church stepped out on faith and chose love and acceptance over fear and posture. We're seeing and living the results at church. It's a great place to experience God's transformative power! That's what #modernministry means to me.
Rev. Bill Hemm is senior pastor at Forest Park Christian Church in Tulsa, OK
On Vocational Depth
"Vocation at its deepest level is, 'This is something I can't not do, for reasons I'm unable to explain to anyone else and don't fully understand myself but that are nonetheless compelling.'" — Parker J. Palmer, Let Your Life Speak
According to the 16th-century Church Reformer Martin Luther, there's a difference between your "vocation" and your "office." Your vocation has a sense of permanence. To quote Parker Palmer, it is at the "deepest level" of the person, which is why you "can't not do" it. Conversely, your office is the place of ministry wherein you fulfill your vocation. Unfortunately, the (so-called) "traditional" path of vocation is, in actuality, more like a list of offices one has had. This expected route is official in nature (in the sense of "office") and not vocational in nature.
I have been blessed with what I call a "bird's eye view" of the Church. Working in various offices has permitted me to gain this broad vision. My ministry experience includes regional ministry, local church pastorate, advocacy and community organizing, nonprofit, and now scholarship and education.
Interestingly, despite the vast differences between offices, I have noticed a common thread, with which I have woven my vocational self-understanding. And it is this: I teach. As an associate minister for youth, the youth program we developed was, I later realized, strongly education based. As a faith-based community organizer, I constantly brought liberation theology books with me to teach my ministerial colleagues on how the Christian faith undergirds our struggle toward justice. As a regional minister, I forged a close, spiritual kinship with those great theologians of the past, who also did "regional ministry" — bishops like St. Augustine of Hippo and St. Gregory of Nyssa. They, like me, were called by the Church to care for a "region" of congregations. And for them, as for me, this ministry of oversight was firstly a teaching office. While my offices have been manifold and varied, my vocation has been particular and focused. I have been teaching my way through my call.
Over 3 years ago, I realized that I was stuck vocationally. Note: I speak of vocation, not of office! At the end of my tenure in the Central Rocky Mountain Region, my hopes were still alive, and my passions still ablaze. Moreover, the "office" of regional ministry gave me life until the very last day. But vocationally, as a minster who teaches, I was stuck. This is when I felt anew the scholarly itch — an intellectual restlessness I had felt before in years past. I knew that further study, at the highest level, was the next step. I just knew. I was "unable to explain to anyone else and don't fully understand myself," but it was "nonetheless compelling." So, I again shifted offices: as a doctoral student of theology and philosophy, and as an educator and mentor to Disciples pastors in formation at Disciples Seminary Foundation. (The birth of my daughter is yet another office from which to teach — and learn! I have so much to learn here!)
You see, modern ministry needs ministers with vocational depth. For when planted in this particular depth, one can flourish, with joy and effectiveness, within various offices. Yet, this depth does require a bit of courage — a courage that breaks with "official" expectations and that risks the unexpected joys of following one's vocation.
Rev. José Morales Torres is the Director of Pastoral Formation at Disciples Seminary Foundation in Claremont, CA. He is also pursuing his PhD in Comparative Theology and Philosophy at Claremont School of Theology.
From Bar to Barre
Like most clergy I know, I've dispensed pastoral care in some strange places. The grocery store. The public library. The Pizza Hut parking lot. A neighbor's garage. And of course, the neighborhood bar where local drafts are $3.50 on Tuesdays. Not that I've memorized the happy hour schedule…
This is what we signed up for. The blessing and the burden of walking alongside people, wherever they happen to be; whether or not they actually go to our church or not. Or any church, for that matter. We are pastor to our people, and all people are our people.
Some days, this means that we are never really "off." It may mean that sabbath comes in blocks of restful hours and not whole days. It means that family time is often measured in terms of quality rather than quantity. It means we may find ourselves donning full-on Pastor Face in a moment we had not meant to clock as, shall we say, billable hours: We minister to the stranger on the park bench while our kids play at the monkey bars; to the fellow parent wading through the chaos of the Kindergarten Halloween party; and, of course, to that person on the airplane who does not take our ear buds, our book or our closed eyes as the obvious signal that "I am currently unavailable to fix the world."
None of that matters. Somehow they know that we are those people. Those people who, however imperfectly, will always show up for the world and climb into all of its joy and heartbreak, taking other people's stuff up as though it were our own. That's who we are, wherever we are.
But just because we are never "off," does not mean we are always on. It's a delicate dance.
Ministry is an identity that we never exactly take off — like the robe that we cannot wait to peel away at noon on Sunday. But just because it's who we always are, it doesn't mean that we should always be doing.
Since we are always embodied in this skin — this often pained and often ecstatic skin, that takes on the weight or the light of the air around us — we also have to learn to dance in it. To not always be writing, thinking, carrying, rushing to heal the world of its every ill. So some days, we leave early the spaces that call us to be doing. We walk away from the revolving door of the church office, from the perpetual motion of the liturgical calendar. We close all the browser windows because at some point, that one thing that you might want to preach about someday needs to just be done.
And when the browsers are no longer glaring at us to somehow respond to their siren song; and when the phone goes to silent, and there are no meetings for at least this hour; then maybe we can go and just be another parent, dropping off a tiny dancer at ballet. Watching her float into that cloud of pink tights and nervous energy. Watching her find her feet and stretch a long — when did they get so long? — leg, up onto that barre, and learn to dance in the skin she's in.
Rev. Erin Wathen is senior pastor of Saint Andrew Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Olathe, KS