A few weeks ago, I posted:
about joining The Arcanum — an magical online platform to help me hone and develop my photography skills. Instead of being a traditional teacher/student banking method of learning, The Arcanum relies on an apprenticeship model. I’ve been matched with a good friend who is already a “master” in The Arcanum, and I will self-pace through the levels, taking what time and wisdom I need, receive feedback, and learn technique and engage in a cohort.
Now for the OTHER great big new step in my life — the left foot edition.
I have begun seminary at Lutheran Theological Seminary Saskatoon.
Surprise! (…or not…)
Currently I am the Family Support Program Coordinator at the Lac La Biche Canadian Native Friendship Centre. I oversee the Waskaysoo Community Food Bank, a school supply closet, connect families with emergency supports, and organize the LGBTQ resource and support centre. It sounds like a lot, but in the context of small local community it’s just about right for my pace.
Long-time readers will know that I’ve also been trying for ages to launch a ministry to marginalized youth. I’ve even managed to secure a grant, plan a pilot project, and come THIS close to having it all take off. Only then it didn’t, and I was back to square one.
So in talking with Pastor Calvin at the church I attend (Lord of Glory Lutheran Church with the ELCIC), he began mentioning about how “pastoral” my vision seemed to be. At first I shrugged off such comments. I knew that the ELCIC ordained women, which was fantastic! But me? A pastor?
Ugh… I’d have to learn Greek and Hebrew.
But as the disappointment of Coming Home’s failure to launch took it’s toll on my life, I realized that God wasn’t removing this passion for ministry. In fact, part of the grief and disappointment wasn’t simply around Coming Home but was more the reality that God was nagging me to step into a new phase in my life.
I already saw my full time work as “ministry” — reaching out, connecting, listening, being present — and apparently that mindset is to seasoned pastors what blood is to sharks. (ha!) I preached a few times when Pastor Calvin was away, and the congregation began to affirm in me some gifts that had never been supported or acknowledged before.
But it couldn’t be me.
I’d already completed my MA in Urban Studies, strengthening my vocation in Community Development. Wasn’t that enough? (see my holding up the Philly Love Sign??) As much as I love school, did I really want to go back for ANOTHER degree or certificate? I completed the MAUS program for that very purpose — to step into full time ministry! And it didn’t quite happen… so how would this be any different?
It couldn’t be me.
While I was born into a household that celebrated men and women as equals in ministry, many of the churches I attended didn’t allow women to be pastors (or if they did, they were confined to being women’s or children’s pastors). **DISCLAIMER: I’m NOT tearing down the roles of women’s or children’s ministries. What I am saying is that women have been confined strictly to these realms. (sometimes frustrating that blogging seems like a never-ending stream of continual disclaimers).
Plus… I’d already kind of… sort of… quietly… shared that I was bisexual — attracted to multiple genders.
So it couldn’t be me.
But this past summer, I suddenly found myself talking with an LTS recruiter… I had more conversations with my pastor… then I was talking with LTS staff… and then I was talking with the Registrar. They all echoed the same messages:
It sounds like you’re already in ministry.
Your visions and dreams sound like a perfect fit for pastoral training.
We can help equip you for formal ministry.
You could have full time hours to be creative in nurturing Coming Home.
Really? Really?! REALLY?!!!!
Not only that, but the Alberta Synod and LTS would do their best to pay my tuition to go.
So during the first week in September, I attended a few days worth of classes, met some classmates, tested the waters, and asked a lot of questions. The content and course work didn’t frighten me. Learning about administration around funding, being able to do my internship in my home community, and asking myself “Am I really a ‘Lutheran’ now?” all terrified the crap out of me.
There are two tracks I can consider: the Master of Divinity program or the Diaconal Ministry Certificate program. The Mdiv focuses on “Word and Sacrament”, and the other focuses on “Word and Community”. Currently I’m in the Mdiv track, but there’s flexibility. I need to take some time and discern which track I’m called towards.
The biggest barrier right now is myself.
I’ve spent so much time over the past few years deconstructing who I am as a Christian — what I used to believe but don’t anymore; what was pushed on me wrongfully, and finding healing; and what name I used to describe myself, if any — the term ‘Lutheran’ never really configured into my identity in Christ. In fact, I’ve been so adverse to calling myself anything other than a “Christ-follower”, that trying to call myself a Lutheran now feels wrong on many levels.
I don’t think Jesus really cares what I call myself. But I do think he appreciates the struggle of breaking away, seeking, finding and then not knowing what to do with newness.
And I do think that, as a seminarian at a Lutheran school, the powers-that-be might just want me to identify with the tribe. 😉
It’s not an insurmountable barrier, but it’s one that I didn’t foresee being so huge for me. Some days I still identify as evangelical; other days I’m simply a Christian; other days I’m a Christ-follower; and other days my doubt is so huge that I don’t want to follow anyone at all.
Why am I believing this stuff again?
Back to attending school.
It will take a few years to get this all under my belt, but I’m up for it. I’m a woman, and I’m wanted in ministry (WHATEVER that ministry might be); I’ve admitted to being bi, and thus far no one’s booted me out or twisted Scripture into a reason for leaving me out in the cold. I.Am.Wanted. That’s huge!
Speaking of which: I hosted Lac La Biche’s first Pride BBQ a couple weeks ago.
Emails started to come:
“Erin, I’m 16 and I can’t tell my parents about being gay…”
“You know my family; they would NEVER approve about who I am…”
“I shouldn’t have to choose between my faith and my sexuality, but I’m forced to everyday. So everyday I’m a liar, and that’s one thing I know FOR SURE is wrong…”
Maybe Coming Home — a place originally envisioned to be a holistic spiritual retreat for marginalized youth — is funneling itself towards something more specific. LGBTQ+ youth struggle with homelessness, poverty, exploitation, family breakup, and even choosing which bathroom they won’t get beat up in.
Maybe I needed to be brave about myself first. Maybe I needed to find a school that would be excited about living and ministering in a “fringe community”. Maybe I needed to be introduced to a group of Christians that take women in leadership and ministry as a given, and maybe welcome LGBTQ+ people as people, and not mental aberrations in perpetual states on sinfulness. Maybe I needed to meet people struggling to find faith in the midst of understanding their gender and sexuality; and maybe that needed to happen while I was in the midst of finding home in a group of Christ-followers (okay, okay: LUTHERANS!!!) who are eager to learn about reconciliation, welcoming and restoration among their own congregations.
I told God when I was 16 years old that I’d never be a pastor. 1) I was a woman, and 2) I needed to be out in the community, in the gutters, in the forgotten places, and I just didn’t see many pastors doing that.
Good joke, God. Real funny.
So here I am, friends. I am officially a seminarian, training to be a pastor. Some of you will be thrilled for me; others will be scratching your heads; and others of you, I know, will have already tried me as judge, jury and executioner. That’s okay.
I’m answering the call I believe God has given. No one can ask more of me than that.
So… go in peace and serve the Lord.