More than two years ago, at the very beginning of the process which culminated in my ordination to the Anglican priesthood, I came to realize that I should not expect to be placed in or appointed to a ministry position which already exists, especially in the Diocese of the Great Lakes, since there would likely be no vacancies among the relatively few compensated positions in the diocese. Thus, if I were to find a place in which to use my gifts in vocational ministry, I would need to “create” a position, devise a ministry, if you will, and the most likely area in which that might happen would be church planting.
At the time of my ordination, I was commissioned by Bishop +Roger Ames to plant a new Anglican church to the west of downtown Columbus, OH, with a ministry focus on both a local neighborhood (probably Grandview Heights) and the Ohio State University campus community. In many ways, planting a new Anglican church within these demographic parameters is a “no-brainer.” In the first place, it is unthinkable that there is only one orthodox Anglican parish of any size in all of the Columbus metropolitan area, St. Andrew’s in Lewis Center. In addition, while it is likely that a church which intentionally focuses on university students will experience considerable turnover in attendance, it is equally likely that the influence of this new church, particularly if the experience is positive, will go with these students into their professional and family lives, even if they move away from Columbus upon graduation.
I am suitably gifted for a ministry of this sort. In the first place, I taught at the college level for fourteen years, and with considerable success if expressions of appreciation from former students are any measure of accomplishment. Granted, a Bible college classroom is not a university lecture hall, but there are similarities, both in the classroom dynamic and in the 18-21 year-old students in both settings. I am not intimidated by this age group, neither by their probing questions nor by their brash self-confidence which often is merely a veneer over some deep-seated uncertainties. I know how they think, and I can relate to their doubts. In my preaching, teaching, and informal conversation, I can respect their points of view without surrendering or compromising my commitment to Jesus Christ and to the Christian scriptures as the ground of all truth.
In addition, I am not a novice. I come to this new challenge out of a lifetime of experience in ministry. I have been a pastor. I firmly believe that the heart of pastoral ministry is Spiritual Formation—exhibiting, encouraging, and enabling Christlikeness in people’s lives. Moreover, and perhaps more pertinently, as a pastor at this stage of my own pilgrimage, I am committed to the idea of the church as both the agent of the Kingdom of God and as a compassionate community in which people feel loved and accepted and where they are enabled to heal and encouraged to grow. This emphasis arises from my own experience in the recent past, when my wife and I went through some of the most difficult and painful experiences of our lives, largely without benefit of pastoral care or a compassionate community to which we could turn and by whom we could be embraced. We both intend to work hard, in our future church endeavors, so that those in similar circumstances can have a positive and life-affirming experience in relating to the church in their time of need.
More to come.