This has been an exciting week.
I completed my first year of seminary, which I cannot believe since it seems like I just began. Someone asked me last night if it was harder than I thought it would be, and honestly it was not. The work was rigorous and challenging, but I decided to tackle one thing at a time and do the work when I could and it turned out that when I needed to do something, I had enough of whatever resource I needed to get it done. There were stressful moments and weeks that required a lot more time at my desk than others, but thanks be to God, it all came together. This year, I took classes in Old and New Testaments, Presbyterian History, Confessions, and Polity, Missions and Evangelism, Worship, and Spiritual Formation. The coming year holds new challenges, as I will tackle Greek, Church History, Christian Education, and learn a little bit more about what it means to be a Pastor.
On Friday, May 15, I celebrated (very quietly) fifteen years in my current career and my current job. I honestly cannot believe fifteen years have come and gone.
On Tuesday, May 12, I became a CRE. According to the Book of Order, here are the functions of a Commissioned Ruling Elder:
“…the presbytery may authorize a ruling elder to be commissioned to limited pastoral service as assigned by the presbytery…Presbytery, in its commission, may authorize the ruling elder to moderate the session of the congregation to which he or she is commissioned, to administer the sacraments, and to officiate at marriages where permitted by state law (G-2.1001).”
So that’s completely clear to you non-Presbyterians, right? Ha–probably not even 100% clear to most Presbyterians.
Basically, here’s the timeline. In 1995, I was ordained as a ruling elder (one who is ordained to service and leadership) in the Presbyterian Church (USA), filling a 1 year youth term on the session (or church board) of the First Presbyterian Church of Merrillville, Indiana. in 2006, I completed a course of training for what we then called our Certified Lay Pastor program. Last week, I met with our Presbytery’s (Regional council of Presbyterian Churches) Committee on Ministry (the committee that oversees the work of pastors and pastors-to-be at our Presbytery’s 30 churches). They examined me at the meeting and determined I was ready to be examined by the Presbytery at the quarterly meeting on May 12. On Tuesday, I went to Presbytery for examination. In the packet received by all participants was a copy of my Statement of Faith. Teaching Elders (Pastors) and Elder Commissioners (ruling elders representing churches in the Presbytery) could ask me questions on the topics of polity, worship, and theology. At some point, the very first pastor I served with at the Presbyterian Church of Henderson, Doug Blair, moved to sustain the examination and the vote was called. The “ayes” had it, and now I am a CRE for the Presbyterian Church of Henderson, Kentucky.
On May 24 at 8:30 a.m. at the church I serve, I will be installed at a service in which I will answer these questions:
(a) Do you trust in Jesus Christ your Savior, acknowledging him Lord of all and Head of the Church, and through him believe in one God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?
(b) Do you accept the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be, by the Holy Spirit, the unique and authoritative witness to Jesus Christ in the Church Universal, and God’s Word to you?
(c) Do you sincerely receive and adopt the essential tenets of the Reformed faith as expressed in the confessions of our church as authentic and reliable expositions of what Scripture leads us to believe and do, and will you be instructed and led by those confessions as you lead the people of God?
(d) Will you fulfill your ministry in obedience to Jesus Christ, under the authority of Scripture, and be continually guided by our confessions?
(e) Will you be governed by our church’s polity, and will you abide by its discipline? Will you be a friend among your colleagues in ministry, working with them, subject to the ordering of God’s Word and Spirit?
(f) Will you in your own life seek to follow the Lord Jesus Christ, love your neighbors, and work for the reconciliation of the world?
(g) Do you promise to further the peace, unity, and purity of the church?
(h) Will you pray for and seek to serve the people with energy, intelligence, imagination, and love?
(the questions above are all the standard ordination questions asked of every ordained office in the PCUSA. I’ve answered them before, in 1995, and I will answer them again, God willing, when I am ordained as a Teaching Elder. The last question is specific to the office I’m being installed to.)
(i) Will you be a faithful ruling elder in this commission, serving the people by proclaiming the good news, teaching faith and caring for the people, and in your ministry will you try to show the love and justice of Jesus Christ?
I am so very grateful for the love, support, and accountability provided by my family, my church and all of the churches I have been a part of, my colleagues in ministry of all denominations, my presbytery, and my incredible circle of friends–all of whom have helped me become a person who can joyfully and hope-fully answer all of the questions above.
It has been an exciting week. Now the journey continues!
*or maybe you do know what that is, but I’ve had to explain it about 732 times this week, so I feel like if you know, you’re in a minority and also you should give yourself a high five.