Ministry Inquiry Reflection – 2013
Jordan Luther, 3rd year student in Biblical Studies
I always had a hunch—even as early as 9 years old—that I would one day serve the church as a pastor. No matter how hard I tried to run away from it, avoid it, or nuance it, the compass of my conscience would always reorient me back to the church and pastoral leadership. This compass ultimately led me to Eastern Mennonite University where I would complement my vocational calling with the academic rigor of majoring in Biblical Studies. However, it was not until this past summer where I was able to test both my vocational calling and formal education in a more experiential manner. Through the Ministry Inquiry Program, I tested and reflected upon what life as a pastor is like. I tested my gifts and interests, as well as explored areas of new interests and expanded my comfort zone in the process: The bottom line is that the Ministry Inquiry Program has been an insightful summer filled with personal growth and blossoming friendships with the people of Wellman Mennonite Church in Iowa.
A reoccurring theme that the pastor Nathan and I reflected upon throughout the summer was the pastoral virtues of self and congregational awareness. One of my favorite nuggets of Nathan’s advice paints the general landscape of the tension in which pastors live. He would say, “A pastor often overestimates what he or she can do in one year and underestimates what he or she can do in 5 years,” simultaneously teaching me and reminding himself of this dilemma. In my own experience, I fell victim to this overestimation of what I can contribute to the church: I was determined to “make the most” out of my time at Wellman and get involved in any way shape or form. After Nathan’s advice had time to germinate, though, I found myself slowing down and I was struck with the necessary humility that I had a significant learning curve when it came to establishing meaningful relationships in order to contribute to the long-term vision of Wellman Mennonite Church. I was eager to increase my congregational awareness; it seemed only appropriate what followed this revelation.
Starting in July, Nathan and I worked on a Creative Listening Inquiry Project (CLIP!) where our goal was to hear from the congregation on an individual or familial level on what each person values. We were invited into some members’ homes; we also met some members and non-members in the safe space of the church library. This was an experience filled with powerful testimonies and narratives of praise and lament, brokenness and restoration, doubt and hope. I know that I was blessed to connect with the people of Wellman on such a deep and interpersonal level. The fruits of this project were ripe with blessings, but I believe the vintage of this crop has yet to be harvested in full. Many people, including Nathan and myself, echoed how much they benefited from this space and felt like their voices and opinions mattered. Without question, I would consider this Creative Listening Inquiry Project as the highlight of my MIP experience.
Living and learning with Nathan Ramer and everyone else at Wellman Mennonite Church was such a gem. I was greeted with a sense of warm hospitality that is such a trademark quality of small-town America, and it did not take me long to grow attached to all of these wonderfully wise people. More importantly, I value all of the countless affirmations I received over the duration of the summer. I tend to shy away from such commentary; however, it was so refreshing to have people recognize and support my gifts and talents and how they can be used for the benefit of the Kingdom of God. This experience helped me understand that pastoral ministry is exciting and a crucial realm of ministry that I can most definitely see myself doing one day.