Send Me On My Way

July 10, 2017


Patty Jenkins stands with Tim Phillips, founding pastor of Jenkin's ordaining congregation Grace Baptist of Chicago

Anyone who commits to a vocation knows that we often start with a certain naivety. The things that bring us into the work are usually not the whole of the work. Some challenges have yet to shape us, and there are opportunities for growth that we have not yet faced. Add that to the fact that we now live in a rapidly changing environment that is impacting almost every field. The idea that individuals will work in a single field at one place for their entire careers is no longer true. Someone who worked in human resources for a Fortune 500 company told me that long tenures at a single company raised red flags for her. It made her wonder why the applicant wasn't good enough to move on to another company.

Vocation comes from the Latin meaning "to call." So, as people move from company to company, the question for us is whether or not we are still true to our call. Is the church providing the rituals and space to wrestle with this question?

The world around us has changed drastically since my ordination into ministry. I have also changed drastically. In my faith tradition, specifically American Baptist Churches, our ministers are ordained by the local congregation. There is a recognition of a call to ministry that is reaffirmed by a group of people. Not by a bishop or by a board, but by a group who has supposedly traveled with you, nurtured you, and have done ministry with you as you have discerned this call.

Perhaps, every once in awhile, it is important to be reminded of our calls. Maybe it's a time to reaffirm our vocations or perhaps this is a season to reflect on whether it is time to transition into something new.

We recently ordained a minister within our congregation. Following the service, one of our members wondered what it would look like to reaffirm her ordination vows. She currently serves as an Army chaplain and is in the midst of preparing for a move that will take her to the other side of the country. So, we began to develop a service that could serve multiple purposes. We wanted to reaffirm and renew her ordination vows. We did this by including hymns from her ordination service and read through vows with her, joined by the pastor that is currently serving the congregation that ordained her. It became a chance to say goodbye as a congregation and reaffirming a commitment to supporting her in her ministry.

The service also became an opportunity for each of us to reflect on our calls as individuals, our vocation, and as a church. In a world where transition and movement happen quickly, then maybe we need rituals that can center us and remind us all of our calls.

Download the renewal of ordination vows that we used for the service. 

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