Before I was a priest, I taught people how to be journalists. Before that, I was a reporter and editor and coffee-maker and phone-answerer. Add floor-sweeper and hamburger-flipper to that and you’ve got the general idea of the range of what a pastor does.
Before, my job was to take care of students and reporters, to teach them things to help them along. Now, I do much the same with parishioners. I care for them, the ancient “cure of souls.”
The transition was like looking in the mirror. One day is much like the last, but then: “When did I become this gray-haired old guy?”
My call was much the same, a gradual recognition of my calling as a Christian, finding where I was useful.
One day I realized that the man looking back from the mirror was not just the same old professor. I saw a college ministry adviser and — gulp! — a person talking to his bishop about priesthood. It all seemed mysterious, yet logical.
Many traditions emphasize a flash of insight in Christian identity, the Road to Damascus experience.
My faith story reflects another ancient tradition. One of responding to God’s call each morning, gradually living out a call to the Christian life.
Frederick Buechner put it this way: “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
Michael Rich, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Jacksonville
Never mind about me
I realize that personal testimonials are often very helpful, but I believe that more important than how I made this decision is what you should keep in mind as you respond to the reality of God’s call in your life.
I believe that you should know that He has not called you by mistake, but instead on purpose; this call from God is full of purpose. The following is an “open note” from God based on Jeremiah 1:5 and Isaiah 55:8:
“Before I formed you, I already knew about your habits, addictions and proclivities. I already knew your strategy for handling stress. I already knew about your mistakes and various indiscretions, and I decided to form you anyway.
“Some would think that with all that I knew about you, and how you would sometimes act so unbecoming to a child of mine, that I would not only rethink forming you, but that I would rethink saving you for my own special purposes. But in spite of what others may think, I set you aside for my special purposes anyway.
“I have appointed you; that is, I have endowed you with the ability, the authority and the right to accomplish all that I am requiring of you.
“Why you? For now just know these two things:
“1. My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways.
“2. I love you.”
E. Steven Richardson, 17th Street Missionary Baptist Church, Anniston