For two full days the Board of Ordained Ministry of the North Alabama Conference met to interview the candidates for the various areas of Ordained Ministry. Those two days happen after a full evening of worship, training and meetings the night before. Yes, it is a working retreat, but we take time for worship, and communion. We are reminded of who we serve and who does the calling and whom is called. It is a difficult task sometimes, and easy at others. It is refreshing to be with colleagues. The Board has on it Ordained and Laity. In some cases the laity ask the harder questions, and sometimes the ordained do. Whatever we do we do it with prayer.
I was on the Team that evaluated the practice of ministry. That meant we evaluated people in areas of preaching, teaching, and pastoral skills. Each candidate had a presenter who had written a paper on each person. There are three areas evaluated, ours, then the Called and disciplined life, and theology and doctrine. Each candidate wrote a paper on each area that was read and then reported on by a reader. I read one candidate's paper on practice of ministry which means I watched a taped worship service and sermon as well as the written work in this area. I presented one person, which meant I collected all the reports on my candidate, read all his paperwork, their file, references, watched several taped sermons and worship services then collated all that in a three page report to give to the committees and teams. We read those papers and then interviewed the candidates. As I said a lot of work. After three interviews we meet as a team to discuss the three candidates and recommendation. Then the Committee meets, I forgot to tell you I was on Committee A, which had all three teams. We then discussed the three areas and the grades and decided to accept or deny the request of the candidates. Then we presented the candidates to the larger board made up of two more committees and vote on each candidate. Then we start all over again.
I have to tell you there were some very sharp, creative, risk taking individuals that came up for ordination this time. For those who were coming up for probation or our new title, Minister-in Residence, they had to show readiness. For those coming up for full connection they had to show effectiveness in all areas. Those who missed or were denied didn't miss by much, either they just were ready yet or not affective. They can come back again.
The Minister-in-Residence is a new program that will begin this year. It is based on a program at Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas. There will be coaches and a program for them to go through, networking, leadership training, etc., stuff you don't learn in Seminary, but before learned the hard way with no one to help you. I think this is going to be a great addition to our conference and really help the beginning pastors and deacons grow in the ministry, and perhaps be more capable of it sooner than later. It help the Board in recommending those for this level as well. I wish they had this when I was beginning.
I am on my third year and have one more year, unless the Bishop reappoints me for four more. I like serving on the Board, and think I have something to offer the Board and the church.
Believe it or not, most candidates came away saying it was a positive experience. I presented someone who had been turned down last year for full connection. Yes, they were mad, and disappointed at the time. But they talked a lot about what a good experience this year had been for them, how much they had learned, how better connected they were to others, and how they experienced God in all that. And they did a much better job this time, you could even tell the difference in the paperwork, the tapes, and just talking with the individual. He has decided he liked his training, groups, and mentor so much last year he is going to continue his work again this year. It was a really affirming process for him. I don't know if I can tell you he passed or not yet. I think that will be posted sometime at the North Alabama conference website. But the candidate knows.
As I listened to the interviewees, I wasn't sure I could do as well as some of them did. I remember fumbling for some of the answers about Wesley Theology. You know they really grilled me on that, having been a Baptist, but overall it was an affirming positive experience for me. I hope it was for those we interviewed. I sure learned some things from some of the clients, new books to read, and some ideas to think about for my ministry.