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Creating a Culture of Call
Location: Park View Mennonite Church
Date: Fall 2004
Adapted for general Ministry Sunday use
I. The Background
Two years ago, Eastern Mennonite University/Seminary received a five-year grant from Lilly Endowment, Inc. entitled “Responding to God’s Call: Do Justice, Love Mercy, Walk Humbly with God.” Since then, the seminary has been partnering with area conferences to help congregations create a “culture of call”—a climate and environment that creatively invites and encourages more persons to consider pastoral ministry as vocational calling.
The project has three stages. Stage 1 highlights Church Vocation Banquets and Ministry Sundays. These focus on “call” stories and the joys of the “pastoral office.” For Stage 2, conference leaders identify “pilot” congregations and pastors who are willing to work with them on the vocational discernment process. Stage 3 concentrates on nurturing and mentoring persons with pastoral leadership gifts.
II. The Plan and Purpose
A Sunday each October has been designated as Ministry Sunday. On this Sunday, congregations are invited to:
This event is not primarily intended to be a “Pastor Appreciation” day. Rather, this Sunday’s emphasis is framed in the larger context of emphasizing the meaning and significance of pastoral ministry.
III. The Resources
Each conference takes responsibility to publicize this event in ways congruent to its normal procedures and policies, e.g. conference paper, monthly newssheets, email releases and/or through verbal announcements at area councils, leadership commission meetings, district meetings or assemblies. (Feel free to edit and/or adapt any of the following).
You are encouraged to send a mailing to or otherwise be in communication with pastors, worship commission chairs, congregational chairs, elders or overseers.
1. Bulletins/Newsletter Announcements
To be posted in August
- October [date], has been designated as Ministry Sunday by [name of conference] in partnership Eastern Mennonite Seminary and other area Mennonite conferences. During this Sunday morning worship service, congregations will recognize and celebrate the joys and rewards of pastoral ministry.
- On October [date], this congregation will observe Ministry Sunday—a time to recognize and celebrate the “pastoral office.” This event is planned in partnership with Eastern Mennonite Seminary and other Mennonite congregations and conferences in this region.
- In two months, Ministry Sunday will be observed throughout this conference. This event scheduled for October [date] will highlight pastoral ministry as vocational calling. Our conference joins other area Mennonite conferences in partnership with Eastern Mennonite Seminary in the celebration of God’s call on the lives of those among us involved in this significant vocation.
To be posted in September
- The question highlighted in the popular cell phone commercial, “can you hear me now?” indicates the difficulty of persons hearing each other. On October [date], this congregation celebrates how God’s voice has been heard in the lives of those involved in pastoral ministry. [Name of conference] is partnering with Eastern Mennonite Seminary and other Mennonite conferences to highlight the “pastoral office” and the significance of that vocational calling.
- Next month on October [date], [name of congregation] and [name of conference] will join other Mennonite congregations and conferences in celebrating the vocation of pastoral ministry. The Sunday morning service will highlight stories of God’s call and the joys and rewards of the “pastoral office.” This is a leadership initiative in partnership with Eastern Mennonite Seminary.
To be posted in October
- 3 weeks prior to Ministry Sunday: In three weeks we join other congregations in recognizing and celebrating the vocation of pastoral ministry. October [date] has been designated as Ministry Sunday for [name of conference] and others who are partnering with Eastern Mennonite Seminary in highlighting the “pastoral office.”
- 2 weeks prior to Ministry Sunday: Our worship theme in two weeks will focus on the rewards and joys of pastoral ministry. This congregation is joining others in our conference and surrounding Mennonite conferences in celebrating the significant vocation of the “pastoral office.” [Name of person] will be our message-bearer and [name of persons] will share the call of God on their lives.
- 1 week prior to Ministry Sunday: Next Sunday is Ministry Sunday—an event planned in partnership with Eastern Mennonite Seminary and other Mennonite conferences to highlight the impact and influence of pastoral ministry on our lives and our community. Join us for a time of celebration of the “pastoral office.” [Name of person] will be serving as our message bearer. [Name of persons] will also share in the service.
- Ministry Sunday: Today, in partnership with Eastern Mennonite Seminary, we join other Mennonite congregations in celebrating the vocation of pastoral ministry . . . (provide more details of your service)
B. The Worship Service
The lectionary Scriptures (Revised Common) for this third Sunday of October, 2004, (Genesis 32:22-31, Psalm 121, Luke 18:1-8, II Timothy 3:14–4:5) connect well with the purposes of Ministry Sunday and are reflected in the various ingredients of the worship service. Feel free to adapt or revise these worship elements.
1. Calls to Worship
Psalm 121 (alternative: use plural pronouns to place God’s assurance for protection in the context of the faith community)
HWB 169 I to the hills will lift my eyes (based on Ps 121)
HWB 229 Lord, you have come to the lakeshore
HWB 227 Two fishermen
HWB 304 There are many gifts
HWB 389 Take my life
HWB 395 Here I am, Lord
HWB 434 Thuma mina
HWB 447 O Jesus, I have promised
HWB 478 Sent forth by God’s blessing
HWB 499 Lord, speak to me
HWB 503 Come, O thou Traveler unknown (based on Gen 32)
HWB 632 God the Spirit, Guide and Guardian
HWB 633 Whom shall I send?
Litany of Thankfulness
Leader: For the gift of your Son, the suffering servant, who showed us the path of obedience and service.
People: Lord, we give thanks.
Leader: For the gift of your Spirit that continually transforms us and molds us for your use.
People: Lord, we give thanks.
Leader: For the blessings of our community of faith, where we can worship you and build one another up.
People: Lord, we give thanks.
Leader: For men and women that you call to be leaders of your flock, equipping us for your service.
People: Lord, we give thanks.
Leader: Gracious God, we thank you this day for the callings on each of our lives and especially for those whom you call to be pastors. Grant them grace, humility, strength and wisdom for their ministry. Show us how to nurture and encourage them. Help us to be sensitive to those your Spirit is calling into pastoral ministry for the future. Give us the creativity and wisdom needed to nurture them in their calling. May all that we do be motivated by our love for you and our desire to glorify you with our lives. Amen.
(written by Sue Eby, Office of Church Partnerships, 2003)
Congregations are encouraged to invite Eastern Mennonite Seminary/University professors and/or other speakers/leaders that communicate well about the joys and rewards of pastoral ministry and church vocation. Pastors should also feel free to preach in their home congregation.
(A). The Gospel Reading (Luke 18:1-8)
Since early June the gospel readings have come from Dr. Luke’s gospel and will continue until Advent. Today’s passage is the challenging parable of the “Widow and Unjust Judge.” The parable itself is prefaced by an introduction stating the purpose for the parable (vs. 1) and is followed by interpretive comments (vv. 6-8).
Sermon Idea: Pastoral ministry as persistence; justice.
(B). The Epistle Reading (II Timothy 3:14-4:5)
The opening verses of this familiar passage highlight the value, essence and role of the Scriptures in the larger context of Paul’s charge to Timothy. In chapter 4, Apostle Paul urges pastoral leader Timothy to pursue ministry activities such as: proclaim the message, be persistent, convince, rebuke and encourage. The last phrase of the paragraph encourages Timothy to “carry out your ministry fully.”
Sermon Idea: Highlight the various imperatives Paul shares with Timothy in the pastoral ministry role. Share stories of how you have observed pastors fulfilling these tasks or reflect on the role of the pastor(s) in carrying out these God-ordered responsibilities.
(C). The Old Testament Reading (Genesis 32:22-31)
Sermon Idea: Emphasize the “call” of vocation and the wrestling, the naming and the blessing that is involved in this journey.
A Blessing for Our Pastor(s) and This Congregation
O Lord, we recognize and affirm that our help and strength comes only from you,
the one who made heaven and earth,
the one who never slumbers nor sleeps
the one who always keeps us.
O God, keeper of the church, we pray today for our pastoral leaders. Help them as they minister on your behalf and for our good. Prevent them from stumbling. Keep them safely in your protective and persistent care. Guard them from evil. Energize and renew their souls.
O Lord, bless our going out and our coming in from this time on and forevermore.
(Based on Psalm 121)
A Prayer for Our Pastor(s) and this Congregation
In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus,
We pray today for our pastoral leaders.
Grant them boldness to proclaim the message,
Strength to be persistent,
Courage to be patient in teaching.
May all of us stay focused, willing to endure suffering and committed to be the missional church and an inviting congregation.
So that together we may be equipped for every good work as we carry out the ministry to which you have called us. Amen.
(Based on II Tim 3:14-4:5)
Leader: Lord, we confess we have not always heard your call, been faithful in ministry or passionate in mission.
People: Bless us, O Lord.
Leader: We have not always entered into the struggle of vocation. We have not responded to your invitation to the journey.
People: Name us, O Lord.
Leader: As we see God face to face, hear our confession of inadequacy, fear and misunderstanding.
People: Wrestle us, O Lord.
Leader: Place us in situations where you speak to us, work with us and through your grace, reach out to us.
People: Touch us, O Lord.
Leader: May the Lord bless you, call you by name and send you forth as transformed followers of the Way.
People: Send us, O Lord.
(Based on Genesis 32)
Stories of Call
Several members could be invited to share briefly their “call” stories. How did the pastor(s) of the congregation, a retired pastor, or other pastoral leader, experience call? How have others experienced God’s call in their life? How has it effected their participation in the ministry of the church?
May the Lord equip us for every good work
Touch us in our need
Name us in our journey
Protect us in our world
Call us in our gifts.
Now and forevermore. Amen.
-Created by Del Glick, Office of Church Partnerships, July 2004
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