After so many years as an Associate Pastor, it became apparent that I needed to decide if I would continue at that parish indefinitely in that role.  I had spent eight years after high school learning to be a Pastor.  I had yet to realize that goal, since much of what a Pastor traditionally does was not in my portfolio as an Associate in a congregation too small to support two people doing the same thing. 

I had never preached a sermon on Easter.  I rarely made hospital visits.  One of the most meaningful ministries is doing funerals.  That was not in my portfolio.  I did very few Baptisms, my Son and maybe a couple of others.  The harsh reality is that it is very difficult to have two pastors in a congregation of that size doing the same thing.  John and I were good friends and an effective team.  After fifteen years, we noted that we were probably one of the very few team ministries around that actually worked.  It was time for me to be a Pastor with the duties that normally go with the role. 

In such a tiny national church body, there were almost no other opportunities available to move into the role of Pastor of a congregation.  I mentioned in the last post that since we were so small, if there was some activity at some level in the country that was open to all Lutheran churches, there were few of us to choose from to represent the AELC.

The workshop was called Options.  It was actually intended for pastors who were preparing to change professions.  That was not my goal, but since I was in transition and I was invited to participate, I did.  It was almost a week long.  There were thirteen of us.  The Staff for the week was seven.   There were personality tests to be taken.  There were interviews, group discussions, as in the old encounter groups.  The goal was for each person to come out with an understanding of how they were wired, what sorts of things fit their abilities, gifts and interests — what they would most enjoy doing. 

Since I had always thought of myself as somewhat of an outsider in the role of pastor, feeling too much like a regular person to fit the role, I was surprised at the results of the week.  It was obvious by the time the week was over, that my future profession ought to be a Pastor.  

Now came the challenge.  How can I serve as a Pastor when there is no place to go to do so in this tiny branch of Lutheranism.  I began the process of becoming certified in the other two larger bodies, the LCA and the ALC.  I became eligible for Call in the LCA.   

At the same time this was going on, a fellow named Pastor George was President of the region of the LCMS I had been in before controversy took us out.    He made sure my name was not removed from the roster of the LCMS.  That meant that I remained eligible for Call in the LCMS. 

Those of us who were dual-rostered (LCMS and AELC) were a problem to the LCMS leadership.  One day I got a surprise phone call from a Vice President of the LCMS who wanted to schedule a meeting with me at the Kansas City airport.   He was on the other end of the spectrum of church practice from me.  However, I had had him in my first year in college many years before.  As a child he had played with my Brother-in-Law.  We had ended up with a personal connection. 

At our meeting, I was candid about the areas of disagreement.  My understanding of the Scripture was that Holy Communion was to be a welcoming and inclusive event.  My understanding of Scripture was that gender should not impact eligibility for any role in the church.  (There is not time or space to review the historical context and careful study that support those positions.)  He shared his understanding.   In the end, he respected me, and I him. 

Apparently, my name had come up in national level meetings of the Council of Presidents, regional Presidents who advise the National church President.  One of those regional Presidents who happened to be even farther on the other end of the spectrum from me also knew me personally.  I had sat and talked with him in the family room of that same Brother-in-Law.  We got along well. 

I do not know what was said in those meetings but not long after those conversations a couple of Calls came from LCMS congregations.   One was from another national level leader who had a huge parish in Texas.  That one clearly seemed to be the result of conversations at that level. 

The other Call was completely independent of any of the issues above.  The retired Pastor of a congregation in the Oklahoma City area was Cousin to the Pastor (and his wife, cousin to both of them) who served the Lutheran congregation where our children had gone to school for most of their Elementary school years.  He had been hospitalized for a time, and I chose to visit him as a colleague.  Mary Ann and I really enjoyed Arlen and Ardis. 

When retired Pastor Willy asked his Cousin Arlen to suggest names for the Call list in Oklahoma, Arlen remembered the hospital calls and gave him my name with a good recommendation.  A Call to serve as Pastor of that congregation soon came. 

The decision whether to serve the current Call or the Call just received is difficult beyond words.  There were fifteen years of relationships.   If it were only that to weigh, there would have been no move. 

One of the times, the Senior Pastor where I was in the KC area needed for me to cover his role while he was on vacation or at a conference,  I called on Esther.  She was in her nineties.  Any Pastor can tell stories about how much they received from those to whom they were supposed to be giving ministry.  Esther and I talked about favorite Psalms, what they meant to us.  Her faith and sincerety filled that little house.  At that moment, I realized what I had been missing.  My gut  knew that I needed to exercise a whole dimension of my training and interest and ability that lay outside the role where I was.   

Some of what comes next you may think I just made up to embellish the story.  I wish it were so. 

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