Chapter Three: The Vocation of Candidates for Rostered Ministry, of Called to Lead – God’s Call, Your Vocation, by the Rev. Paul Baglyos, is where the rubber starts to touch the road.
Have you ever envisioned yourself becoming a ministry leader in the ELCA?
Well, yes, as a matter of fact, I have. A coupla months ago, I was hanging out with some other recovering alcoholics talking about spiritual shit and somebody started talking about how much trouble she was having doing what she thought was God’s will and I suddenly knew I was s’posed to become a minister in the Lutheran Church. That was all there was to it, but it was pretty clear. It was a very calm, yet unmistakable call. I did a little looking around and the ELCA is the biggest branch of Lutherans in the USA, and the one whose beliefs make the most sense to me. I really didn’t even consider the Missouri Synod – their stance on women and gays, plus the fact that they’re Missouri was enough. Since I was called, I haven’t been able to summon up any resistance to the idea – sure, I had a coupla moments of not wanting to have to go back to college, but the comparison that pops into my mind is wanting to have a baby, but not wanting to change diapers. You just accept it as part of the package.
What are the personal motivations and aspirations relevant to your consideration of candidacy?
Well, ya see, it’s like this: nigh on twenty-one years ago, me ‘n’ God made a little deal. God keeps me sober, in exchange for which, I do whatever God wants. For a lotta that time, my understanding of God was kinda vague and all over the place – and there was a period of six or eight months when I was really pissed off at God – but God has kept me from drinking and I’ve held up my end as best I could. So my personal motivation comes down to the fact that I don’t wanna get drunk and that means doin’ what God says.
As far as aspirations go, I aspire to jump through all of the hoops that the ELCA sets up and becoming a Pastor. I’ve never been burdened with a whole lotta what ya’d call “ambition”, so I don’t have any what ya’d call “aspirations”, except for doing what Pastors do. And stuff.
In what ways do you feel drawn toward candidacy for ministry leadership?
This oughta be a multiple choice. Or something. I dunno what Baglyos wants here. I feel drawn toward candidacy for ministry leadership because that’s what God told me to do. It also seems like it could be kinda fun – in a sorta wacky way – like who’da thunk I’d ever be a Pastor? How crazy is that? Which might not be as solemn as it could be, but it ain’t like God didn’t know who She was dealin’ with – we’ve had a pretty good relationship. I pray everyday and I’ve been wide open about who I am and what I’m up to. If God wanted somebody who was gonna take everything really fuckin’ serious and shit, then She woulda tapped that asshole, not me. Also – I’m tired of working, so being a Pastor seems like a good career move. I mean, they just show up on Sundays and say some shit, right? Rest of the time, they’re just layin’ around countin’ money, ya know?
What excites you about that possibility?
The money. And the babes.
What worries you about that possibility?
I ain’t worried. I wouldn’t say I’m thrilled about the public speaking aspect, but I’ll get over that. My future congregants might not be stoked about hearing me chant – I tend to hit a raspy tone between C7 and D flat, way down in the low end, and just stay there. Like a bass chainsaw, but with less dynamic range. It doesn’t bother me because I’m used to it, but I can see how nobody else’d wanna hear that on Sunday morning. I do know a Lutheran with a pretty decent voice who I could possibly convince to be a cantor in my Church – to do all the vocal heavy lifting. She’s a lesbian. A really active lesbian – like, she and her partner have four cats and three dogs and they prob’ly listen to k.d. lang – which wouldn’t be cool in the Missouri Synod, but we’re all ELCA and we’re okay with that.
I have had a coupla moments of thinking I wasn’t as Luthery as I could be – like last night, I was reading Luther’s Preface to the New Testament and he was doggin’ James, which I kinda like, but some minor disagreement about what epistles we like ain’t a deal breaker or anything. Basically, I’m down with Luther.
Has anyone ever suggested that you consider candidacy for ministry leadership in the ELCA?
Nope. I wasn’t even a Lutheran ’til God told me to become a Pastor. It woulda been real weird if somebody’d suggested I become a ministry leader in a church I didn’t go to. Actually, it was real weird when God told me to do it – but my experience has been that God is kinda weird.
Has anyone ever encouraged you you to pursue that possibility?
Actually, yes. Several people who I told about the call have said that they think I’d be great at it. A few have promised to switch to my church. Some people have been, like glad that I’m doing it, but not especially interested because they’re atheists or some dumb shit like that.
Okay. So I was following the Q and A format, but I’m bored with that. I haven’t heard back from the Virginia Synod or the local Pastor about whether or not I should pursue a Bachelor’s or hope to get that requirement waived. In the absence of any information there, I’m starting the process of figuring out what college I’ma get into and what program. Seems like some kinda religion/philosophy thing would be applicable, but I’ve already got a buncha mental health-related credits and I think I might use that info in pastoral counseling because I expect to have crazy people in my congregation – birds of a feather. So I dunno. A degree in theology would make the most sense, I guess, not that making sense is a crucial factor at this point. I’m a miserable sinner and reprobate on the way to becoming an ordained and rostered Pastor at a moment in history when the leader of the free world can be referred to as Orange Caligula without causing confusion, bugs are going extinct and there’s some kinda Night of the Living Deer thing going on – no zombie deer have been reported here in Rockingham County, VA, but they have ’em in Shenandoah County, which is right next door. Whether the planet will be willing to support human life by the time I get outta seminary remains to be seen. I kinda expect to be the Pastor for a heavily armed band of survivors, scavenging up and down the Shenandoah Valley for crackers and MD 20/20, hiding from the hordes of walking dead who got bit by zombie deer. I’ll be the one with a cleric shirt under my fur-collared, green barn coat, with a Kalashnikov and a Bible – New Revised Standard Version, of course. If I get my choice, I really like the WASR-22, also known as AK-22 – basically, an AK-47 chambered for .22LR. It’s lighter than the AK-47. Sure, it’s a tiny bullet, but I have faith. ‘Course, if I get my choice, we’ll be able to avoid that scenario, but nobody’s askin’ me.
The chapter – God’s Calling, third chapter, remember? – goes on to talk about the importance of humility – “Humility is necessary not only to the vocation of ministry leadership, but also the vocation of candidacy.” – and my first thought was “Shit, I’m so ‘umble, I ain’t even usin’ my government name on my blog”, but then I remembered that I have been clinging to the notion that I oughta be able to bypass that pesky Bachelor’s requirement because I’m smart and, ya know, I just feel like it. In Acts 10:34, Peter says “I truly understand that God shows no partiality”. Gah. Looks like I’m going to be applying to a Bachelor’s program. Acceptance.
When I mentioned MD 20/20, I was thinking about the Eucharist and how we’d have to find what we could and make do. I wouldn’t be drinking the Mad Dog. I’ve had my share of fortified wines and don’t want any more, thankee ver’ much, and I liked Night Train better anyway. I used to say that bottles of Night Train were like tits – one’s not enough and three is way too fuckin’ many. I also used to puke a lot. I realize that I prob’ly won’t be able to continue to be a vegetarian in the zombie apocalyptic wasteland that’s just over the horizon, but I ain’t getting drunk. Whether or not I continue to be celibate will depend on whether repopulating the earth seems like a viable option – and whether or not there are hot babes in my survivor group, of course.