Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Beginning (of the end of) the journey to first call

My internship is finished, and I'm back in Gettysburg for my final year of seminary. That means I'm well on my way to the process known as assignment.

I know I have many friends and family members who want to know how this process works. I'll be using the blog as a central place to find out the steps along this journey, from from approval to assignment to first call. It'll also give me a chance to let you all know how the decisions come down for me. And if there are any seminarians out there reading this, I hope it's a resource to you in what to expect from your senior year.

This is Part One. Check out Part Two, on the assignment process, and Part Three, on assignment paperwork.

Part One: The Approval Essay

A huge part of the road to becoming a pastor (or another rostered leader, such as an Associate in Ministry or a Diaconal Minister) is the candidacy process. Theologically, the church understands that call is not only a personal, internal feeling, but that there is also an external call that comes from the Christian community. Practically, we also want to make sure that the people who are leaders in the church are appropriate for that role. Both of these needs are filled by the candidacy committees - one in each synod. There are three stages of candidacy: entrance (before you begin seminary), endorsement (before you go on internship), and approval (before assignment and ordination). Each stage includes an essay and an interview with the committee, as well as other requirements that vary between the stages.

At this point, my classmates and I have already received a positive decision for entrance and endorsement. Now we're preparing for approval. Right now, that means we're writing an approval essay that will be submitted to our candidacy committee and our seminary. The topic for the approval essay changes from year to year. This year, we've been asked to consider cultural and demographic changes that are affecting the church. The essay includes reflection on our internship site, a sermon, and consideration of our leadership abilities.

The approval essay is due at the end of the summer. Once the fall semester begins, we'll have a faculty approval panel -- an interview with two members of the faculty to discuss our theological ability and our readiness for practical ministry. The faculty makes a recommendation to the candidacy committee about our approval decision. Then each approval candidate meets with his or her candidacy committee for the approval interview. Some of these interviews will be happening as soon as October; mine isn't until January. The candidacy committee will make the final decision as to whether the candidate is approved for ordination. If you're approved, then you can enter the assignment process.

Stay tuned for my next post, when I'll briefly explain the assignment process and the regions of the ELCA.

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