Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Assignment for First Call: Piles of Paperwork

I'm continuing my blog series on the first call assignment process. Check out the earlier posts if you haven't already:

Part One: Approval

Part Two: Introduction to Assignment

Now, on to part three. Tonight, we had an informational meeting with two important folks: the seminary representative who goes to the assignment summit in Chicago (in the case of Gettysburg Seminary, he's also our director of field education and one of the New Testament professors), and the Region 8 coordinator. Remember in Part Two, we talked about the nine regions of the ELCA? Each region has a region coordinator, and those coordinators also go to the assignment meeting.

Our theme in the meeting tonight, and my theme in this post, is the piles of paperwork that go into this process. Are you ready? It should be loads of fun.

If you want to find out more than you ever wanted to know about assignment, you can check out the ELCA website dedicated to the subject. That's sort of our home page for this process. You'll see it has practical information, theological foundation, checklist, schedule... and the forms. The many, many forms.

Piles of Paperwork: So What Are All These Forms?

The candidate (that would be me) fills out three major forms: A, B, and RLP. (If the candidate is restricting herself or himself to a certain area -- as I described in Part Two -- there's one additional form, Form R.)

Form A: Basic information. Name, contact information, home synod, home congregation, education and work history, etc.

Form B: Candidate preference summary. This is the place to state regional preferences (see Part Two), as well as preferences for the setting where you would prefer to be called -- for example, rural or urban, solo pastor or member of a large church staff. It also has a (surprisingly small) box to describe your sense of call and your gifts. This is the primary way the bishops will get a sense of what ministry setting you are suited for.

Form R: I won't say much about this one; I'm not planning to restrict, so I won't be filling out Form R. This form is only for first call candidates who are requesting a restriction to a certain synod or area. (Note that it's a request; the request has to be approved by the bishops of the region to which the candidate wants to restrict.)

Form RLP: Assuming you have gotten the attention of a bishop in Form B, that bishop may choose to look at your Rostered Leader Profile. While Forms A and B are just a page each, the RLP is a massive 16 pages. Obviously, with 200-ish candidates going through this process at the same time, the bishops are not going to read every one of their RLPs. So this form functions to elaborate on what was written in Form B, for those bishops who want additional information. Like Form B, it includes regional preferences, preferences for setting (say, small town) and ministry (say, youth ministry or Christian education). However, it has more space to provide input, and it includes larger sections on your strengths and gifts, education and work history, etc.

The Rostered Leader Profile will continue to be important after assignment, because it's also the form that congregational call committees will look at when you're beginning to interview for first call. It functions as your resumé for congregations to look at -- but it also includes your vision for the kind of ministry to which you think you would be suited.

We're not done yet! There are two more forms which matter for assignment, but are written by other people.

Form D: Form D is the summary of what the candidate did in seminary. On the left-hand side of the single page are the summaries written at the end of internship. The internship supervisor and the internship committee, as well as the intern herself or himself, each write a single paragraph that summarizes and evaluates the internship experience. On the right-hand side of Form D, the seminary faculty gives their evaluation of your abilities and preparedness for ministry.

Form E: This is the candidacy committee's equivalent of Form D. Since the candidacy committee makes the final decision to approve the candidate for ordination, this form is the document that contains the official recommendation for ordination. It also includes their own summary of the candidate.

(If you're as neurotic as I am, you may be wondering why there's no Form C. I think that form is filled out by congregations who are seeking a pastor, but I'm not sure exactly what it entails.)

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