Tonight the Session voted unanimously without reservation to recommend me as an Inquirer to the Presbytery.
No, it’s okay… that’s a good thing. And after posting something similar to the above sentence on facebook, I realized quickly that I have a lot of friends who can’t translate. All those words might look familiar but what do they mean?? Simple explanation is that I’ve decided to try to become a pastor and the church board thinks that could work out okay.
I think I want to be a pastor. It’s more than that. Want isn’t a strong enough word. I can’t imagine myself doing anything other than ministry. I’ve done youth ministry for several years. I love it. I’m not ordained in or anything. We have a process for how we do things like that. It reminds me of Harry Potter a bit but without the owls and train.
The first basic step in understanding Presbyterian Church nerd speak is this: The church board is called the Session. (There are also deacons and sometimes trustees but that’s not important right now.) Churches combine to form districts– right now they’re geographically divided– those are Presbyteries. Presbyteries combine to form Synods. And then there’s General Assembly which is representatives from everywhere. It’s sort of like city council, county supervisors, state legislature and then federal legislature.
I feel called to become a pastor which means I want to go to seminary (pastor school– the goal is a Master of Divinity or MDiv.) Each Presbytery has a Committee on Preparation for Ministry (CPM). I met with the chairperson from that committee and talked to her about wanting to become a pastor. She then met with the Session at my home church and explained to them the process.
Tonight, I turned in the application to become an Inquirer and submitted it to the church session. Inquirer is just the word they use to describe someone exploring and beginning the process to be a pastor. And so the session asked a few questions… (mostly “how can we help you?” “What’s the best way to fund this?” “Can you handle the schooling part of it?)
By voting to recommend me as an Inquirer, they are essentially saying “Yes, we agree you might be called into ministry. Here let us help you.”
They will let the CPM know that they think I could be a pastor. Then I will meet with CPM and they will ask some more questions about me as a person. If CPM decides that I could be a pastor, they will then take it to a Presbytery meeting. Our Presbytery is Prospect Hill Presbytery (NW Iowa). If the Presbytery approves me as an Inquirer than I officially will be “under care” of Presbytery.
From there, I’ll have other steps. At some point I’ll apply and hopefully get accepted by a Seminary. I’ll start school and the CPM and the Session will both keep tabs on me to make sure I’m getting a good preparation for ministry. After a bit, I’ll morph from Inquirer into Candidate. Ideally I’ll graduate with an MDiv and take the ordination exams (like a bar exam for a lawyer or boards for a doctor). Assuming I pass, the Presbytery will then decide if I can be approved to look for a call (Presby speak for a job) and then once I find a call, I can be ordained.
There are a million or so steps in between. This is dramatically simplified (even though it looks like a lot of words and a lot of parentheses) but anywho… my church thinks I could be a pastor and want to support me as I try to become one. That’s cool.
Now someone send me an owl.