Archives For UDTS

Essentially, this is an update.

Yesterday, I was certified ready to seek/receive a call by my home Presbytery (Presbytery of Western Kentucky). This means I can search for a job! So exciting and terrifying!

No, I haven’t graduated. Nope, I’m not ordained yet. This has nothing to do with my masters degree and no, that’s not even the last step of the whole process. But it’s one that involves a live and up-front oral examination by teaching and ruling elders at a Presbytery meeting, so it’s a bit of a big deal.

Basically, I’m working two tracks at the same time. I’ve listed my completed steps in GREEN and my still to be completed steps in RED.

Track #1

Get a Masters of Divinity Degree (MDiv). This is a 75 hour degree and must include (because I’m Presbyterian) the languages of Hebrew and Greek, classes in Hebrew and Greek Exegesis, Reformed Worship, Presbyterian Polity, and a class in Presbyterian history and confessions, as well as the standard MDiv classes in Bible, history, theology, missions, ministry, and Christian Education.

Note: This involves a generous amount of weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Track #2

Fulfill all the requirements for Ordination, which include:

Become an Inquirer (usually before or just after the start of seminary). This involves a lot of paperwork and interaction with the Committee on Preparation for Ministry (CPM). I did this in May 2013.

Complete a psychological evaluation. I did this in July 2016. I “passed!”

Complete Clinical Pastoral Education/Student Chaplaincy at a hospital. I did this (ish) during Spring semester 2016.

Become a Candidate for Ministry (cannot happen until one has been an inquirer for a year and one must be a candidate for at least a year before ordination). This involves sharing a statement of faith and faith journey with the home Presbytery and requires their vote. I did this in August 2016.

Pass written Ordination exams in Bible Content, Theology, Polity, Worship and Sacraments, and Exegesis. I completed this step in July 2017.

Meet with home Presbytery’s CPM annually. Meet a final time to be examined before being certified to seek a call.

The group of Henderson Presbyterians who attended the Presbytery meeting and supported me at the examination yesterday.

Optional (but required in my Presbytery): Be examined on the floor of Presbytery to be certified ready to seek/receive a call. This is what I did yesterday.

Finish the PIF (Personal Information Form–like a really long resume with leadership competencies listed, essay questions, a statement of faith, work and education and service history, and lots of other fun pieces of information.

Upload PIF to the official pastor/church dating site.

Find a call/job that is validated for ordination. (This of course involves skype and in person interviews and negotiations and about a million hours of prayer, probably.)

Meet with the receiving Presbytery’s Commission on Ministry for examination for ordination. And pass that examination.

Officially receive a call to a ministry that is validated for ordination.

Complete Track #1 (see above). 

FINALLY GET ORDAINED (that has it’s own mini-process, you’ll be glad to know. Presbyterians love a decent, orderly process.). Either simultaneously or after ordination, get installed as the pastor at the calling church. (And from that point on, new calls will require an examination by the receiving presbytery and an installation service at the new church.)

Whew! Is that clear and simple or what?

So currently, I’m still completing requirements for my MDiv (I have to finish this 7 hour semester and complete 7 additional hours next semester). And I’m preparing to upload my PIF and start seeking a call, because I do plan to seek a call that is different than the non-ordained one I currently have. I won’t be ordained, however, until I earn my degree and receive a call and pass the ordination examination in the receiving presbytery.

Essentially I’m at least six months away from ordination, and probably longer than that. Which means that although yesterday was an accomplishment in its own rite and another box checked off the list, nothing is really completed or accomplished overall. I’m still working the tracks.

I’m so grateful for the support and love that comes in the form of encouraging words, questions about the process, and celebrations from near and far. Step by step, to God be the glory.

“Let us hold fast to the promise of hope without wavering, for God who promised is faithful.” Hebrew 10:23

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.


Photo Credit: David Muffett

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.

Hi friends! Time’s flying and I’m in the middle of my second trip to Iowa for an intensive as I seek to complete my Masters of Divinity degree in the distance program at University of Dubuque Theological Seminary (UDTS).

Last semester, I completed a Theological Research class, a Spiritual Formation class, and Foundations of Worship during the August Term and Old Testament and Missions/Evangelism during the semester (distance learning). That turned out all right.

This semester, I am taking Spiritual Formation and History and Confessions of the PC(USA) during the January Term and I will take New Testament and Presbyterian Polity during the Spring Semester (distance learning).

Things are going well. We’ve had some adventures here. I arrived in Iowa on Saturday (January 3) at supper time. Around midnight, I got in the passenger seat of classmate Krista’s vehicle and we drove to Moline to pick up Jennifer when her flight landed at 1:00 a.m.



Jennifer had an interesting time getting to Dubuque. Starting on Friday night with her original flight, and then several attempts at other cities that would get her close to Dubuque, every flight got canceled. Just when she was setting up a permanent living space in the Denver Airport, she got on a flight to Moline. Krista commemorated this with the following sign that greeted Jennifer at the Moline airport:



On the way back to Dubuque, it started snowing:



If you’re reading this, you might get used to weather related observations. There is a lot of weather in Dubuque, Iowa. In fact, let’s just get this one out of the way:


I have taken several photos of the weather app on my phone this week.

Finally, come Sunday night, most of us had made it to Dubuque, and come Monday evening, all of the first year distance cohort (minus Evelyn, who is not able to join us this time) had finally, safely made it to Dubuque. Everyone got scarves!



Living in a hotel is interesting. When you volunteer to cook dinner, there are limited options. Our standards for where it is acceptable to prepare food are lowered here. For example, a rather popular place to cook and prepare food here is the bathroom. I gave that a try on Monday. The result was a Hawaiian Chicken that is now known as “Bathroom Chicken.” Yum, yum!


Class is going well. As I mentioned, I’m taking my spiritual formation credit with my wonderful Spiritual Formation Group and I’m taking a class with Dr. Gary Hansen on History and Confessions of the PC(USA).



My mother has pointed out that it appears coffee is very important in my spiritual formation. I do consume a lot of coffee normally, and it seems to be a much higher level of consumption when I’m in Dubuque. First, coffee is hot and it’s pretty cold here. Second, coffee has magical powers to keep my eyelids open, which is pretty important when one is in class and Chapel 7-8 hours a day.

On Monday, it snowed.



(Yes, that photo is jarring for many reasons. I think the camera on my phone was shivering when I took this.)

We bundle up when we go to class. Or anywhere else. Especially those of us from slightly warmer climates. It’s cold here.


Ben from Georgia



Carolyn from Florida

 Our classes are interesting and fun, for the most part. I’m very much enjoying the things we are learning. There are breaks that include dance parties, prayer and song, and other shenanigans (like this selfie with John Calvin).


Jennifer and John

I’m working some on my bubble and block letter techniques, but at least I’m keeping it relevant.



I think John Calvin is pretty impressed.



Prayer Based on Psalm 121

August 12, 2014
lift my eyes

Photo taken by Jason Durham in the Medicine Bow Mountains

Today felt kind of sad. I can’t really explain why, except that I’m often affected by the sadness others carry and that seemed to be all around me today. It probably also has to do with a general lack of sleep, homesickness, and weariness. I expect tomorrow to feel different and I only mention it to give you context.

I had to write a prayer based on a Psalm for my Foundations of Worship class. I actually wrote two versions of this prayer based on Psalm 121–one the way it came out of my pen originally (featured here), and one more suited for corporate worship (written for “us”).

I didn’t have 17 hours to get the spacing right here, so click for a PDF.

Spiritual Formation Journal

August 10, 2014

iphone summer 244Thought I’d share another entry from my Spiritual Formation journal!

I have been doing a lot of thinking about the things that I do that make me a “healthy” pastor and the things that make me an “unhealthy” pastor.* This past week, I have walked to and from class, have made choices at meals that were a mix of healthy and unhealthy, have gone to the rec center for work outs, have spent time at my desk working hard, have consumed a lot of coffee, have slept six hours a night, and have taken time for outings with friends in my cohort. Overall, I’m fairly happy with how I’ve handled my health this first week. It’s true, there could have been less sugar and grease in my diet—a constant battle for me, and there are friends who would argue that three or four large cups of coffee daily is detrimental, but I have taken time to rest, play, foster relationships, move and sleep in the midst of this very busy, very intense week.

I feel good. Against all odds, I feel rested. I feel optimistic about the next four years. I know that there will be semesters and intensives when this is much harder and there is less time, but I hope that I can continue to make time for rest, to do things that are fun, to spend time with friends, to exercise, and to sleep each night. I hope to be challenged to take better care of my body by putting better foods into it. The coffee is here to stay, though. Every pastor needs at least one relatable vice, I figure!

*When one is in seminary, the word “pastor” takes on a transcendent quality–an “already, not yet.” Or, we are kind of pastors, but kind of not entirely. Hope that clears it up!

I wrote the title of this post (after several revisions–some of the first attempts were rather dramatic sounding) and sat for about ten minutes trying to determine how to get started.

In some ways, this week has flown by. In others, I can’t believe all of the things that have happened since I arrived here 184 hours ago. My classmates, almost completely strangers to me one week ago, have become trusted, much-loved friends. Lectures and classes that seemed a bit intimidating have become “old hat.” I’m still feeling a little rusty, but slowly I’m adjusting to the demands of being a student of humanities, with all the reading and writing that goes along with that. I finished my Theological Research class and have been dismissed to go in peace and cite in Turabian format for the next four years. I’ve consumed somewhere in the neighborhood of 34 gallons of coffee and read a few hundred pages of words. I’ve been to a nearby convent and spent an evening in silent retreat. I’ve worked hard and played sometimes and have made it to the weekend (where there will be a bit more play time and lots of work to complete).

And even in my occasional sleep-deprived delirium, I’m having so much fun!

Everyone connected with the seminary has been so warm, kind, supportive and accessible. My classes have been filled with practical information, preparing me to either be student or pastor. My Foundations of Worship class has challenged me and given me a good understanding of why we worship how we worship (and next week, we do all the practical stuff about bulletins, sacraments, prayers, etc). My Spiritual Formation Group has given me space to pray and reflect.

blog1I miss Jason, of course, Tomorrow is our twelfth anniversary. I miss him and all the ways he supports me, some of them so quiet and “behind the scenes” they may sometimes go unappreciated in our every day life together. And I miss Jonas and knowing how first three days at school went. And I realize I haven’t even talked to my mother or any other friends or family members, and so I miss knowing how things are going for all of them. The students in my youth group and the children in my church started school this week–some of them achieving milestones like kindergarten, middle school or high school (and I’m grateful for the internet, because it meant I could “see” all of them in their backpacks and first-day outfits). I’m grateful for all the messages of encouragement and love I’ve received from my church family and friends.

This morning, one of the staff (and a new friend) is taking some of us to the Farmer’s Market and the Field of Dreams in nearby Dyersville, IA. This afternoon, I will be reading and studying. Tonight, I hope to eat dinner with classmates. Happy Saturday, friends!

cohort 2014

My brilliant and beautiful classmates!

So, it would be impossible to write stuff separately from all that I’m dong at UDTS during this first August Intensive, but I thought I’d just simply share what I wrote for my spiritual formation class journal today. Peace be with you and yours today!

Today’s first Spiritual Formation Group was unexpectedly meaningful to me. I say unexpectedly because I am exhausted. I was up late last night and by the time 4:15 rolled around this afternoon, it had been a very full day of new classes and Chapel and lots of human interaction, which had drained this introvert dry. So when Susan gave us the prayer walk time, I figured I’d just go wander and breathe and be grateful for ten minutes of non-interaction.

Before she sent us on our way, though, there was Psalm 139, read so beautifully by my individual classmates’ voices, which was particularly moving—to hear this passage read line by line by different voices. Then I sat with the Psalm and noticed all of the ways God is active. God searches me, knows me, and is ever present with me, no matter where I go. Not that I go somewhere and God appears, but that God is already there even when I arrive.

With those thoughts fresh in my head, I wandered off for the ten minute prayer walk. Compelled by the smell of old books, I headed for the Biblical Studies section of the library and wandered among the shelves. At one point, I stopped in a rather secluded row and stood, inhaling the scents and absent-mindedly reading titles. And then, I was nudged by these words: “Even here, I see you.” Amid all of those theologians, Bible scholars, and pages of ancient and modern words God still searches me and knows me. Thank goodness!