Formation Journey Continues
I cannot consider a reflective paper on the Diaconal Ministry Formation event compleat without including something on personal formation, and my reflection on this journey, past, present, and future. While the theology and historical background are an essential part of my formation, they are only a part. The DMFE as a whole (worship experiences, small group discussions, spiritual practices, lectures, time in community, and developing relationships) also helped me to uncover the layers of weights that I need to either leave behind or transform along this formation journey.
I am just beginning to be able to articulate that my call to ministry is inseparable from my life experiences. I have resisted connecting my daughter’s death to my call to ministry and yet if I had not called out in agony asking why I was here when she is not, if I had not felt totally abandoned and forsaken, and if I had not felt truly dark and broken and utterly “of this world” I would never found the sacred silence that beckoned me out of the shadows and into the love of Christ as demonstrated in God’s clear love for this world in all its brokenness. I may never have been able to recognize that sometimes we do the things we do not because we really want to, but because, through the strength of Christ and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we can.
Additionally I realize that to truly live out this call I need to get myself out of the way (as we were reminded during the DMFE, it is not about us). In part this means that rather than holding on tightly to my remaining griefs, I must embrace them and that, as needed, let them go. This has been most challenging as I realize that some of the deepest grief I still hold on to are exactly where loss and theology meet. I am not sure I can even articulate this fully yet, but not only did my “Sunday School” faith not sustain me through my losses, the church body I belonged to at the time was not able to minister to me appropriately though that time. Every response I received was framed in terms of black and white with concern only to the next life with no ministry offered for our life on earth. I do not believe God abandons us in the present with merely a promise of future reconciliation. Rather, what Christ did on the Cross is for all eternity (our time and the next life). I continue to take this to God in prayer daily as to fully partner in reconciling ministry I must let go of my personal “chip on my shoulder” that has seemed to accompany my background of former identity with a earthly church with this understanding and seeming lack of diaconal ministry.
Another very important part of my formation throughout the event is my understanding of the mutual accountability relationship created by being a rostered and called leader within the ELCA. Prior to attending DMFE I knew that the ministry I was called to was diaconal ministry and was thankful to have a degree and approval process to be sure that I was trained well for the ministry I would do. However, I was not entirely sure it was necessary to be a rostered and called leader in order to do that ministry. I even said to others that if I could do the ministry without being rostered, I would be OK with that (thinking I was emphasizing the importance of the ministry over the importance of a church designated position). I no longer feel that way. I value the importance of mutual accountability implied by consecration, and I feel that the Diaconal Ministry roster in the ELCA is a very important roster that is vital for the ELCA to fulfill its mission. I am also grateful for those that forged this path creating a very specific and well-defined roster, including the Six Marks of a Diaconal Minister.
And finally attending the DMFE brings me an appreciation for the candidacy process. It was sobering to be reminded that the minute we were granted entrance we became a part of caring for the baptized of the church. I now have a better understanding of the importance of the approval process, and what it means to be a rostered leader in the ELCA.
**Disclaimer? — please remember that I am sharing these as first response answers to questions to my Diaconal Ministry Formation Event and not as polished, researched essays. Although I welcome responses, please do keep this in mind when you respond (as well as the fact that my current schedule limits how often I can reply to comments) **
Additional links some may be interested in (I try not to assume readers know my background and yet cannot address this myself in my posts):
History of Diaconal Ministry Community (and from here a link to Together for Ministry (PDF file)
Rostered Leadership (ELCA)