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Answering a call from God

Posted: April 12, 2009 12:50 a.m.
Updated: April 12, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Pastors say an urge to enter the ministry can come to anyone at any stage of life.

 

Rev. Lynn Jay remembers when, as a teenager, she sensed a growing interest in the ministry.

“I remember saying at about 15, “... if I were a boy, I would be a priest,’” Jay, of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, said.

When she was growing up, women were not ordained, so Jay’s feelings did not come back until 1976, when the Episcopal Church began to ordain women.

Though she still heard the call to serve God, she dismissed it, especially after starting a family.

The ’70s brought the women’s movement, something Jay thought mixed her up.

And being a woman kept getting in the way of her calling.

“I tried to ignore the fact that I was a woman, which is hard to do when you’re married and have three children,” Jay said.

Eventually, though, she realized the need to address her calling in relation to her identity.

“I think I was called for the totality of who I am, and that’s certainly being a woman,” she said. “I think when people are called into whatever vocation, they’re called for the totality of who they are.”

Jay soon followed her calling, going through a multiple-year process that ended with her ordination. She has been ordained for more than 25 years.

Callings, which typically refers to what a person feels is a call to serve God, come to just about every type of person. And they seem to come in all stages of life.

“There’s no time in particular,” Pastor George McLeary of The Church of Hope said.

“One of the things you see in churches today are leaders who are second-career people,” Rev. Stan Fix of Friendly Valley Community Church said.

Fix grew up in the church and studied at UC Irvine for a career in social work.

But at 21, the summer before his senior year of college, Fix got married and wrestled with life’s questions.

“I had done a lot of study into what you’d say are the big questions of life,” he said, referring to what’s on the other side of death and where people get their ideas from.

As the Vietnam War raged, Fix, who has been part of the United Methodist Church of 35 years, shifted his studies and decided to teach the teachings of Jesus Christ as a way to connect with people in a church setting.

To him, a calling relates to his purpose.

“This is my meaning and purpose,” Fix said. “By responding to that calling, that’s what I found.”

Scott Basolo, of Santa Clarita Baptist Church, spent 20 years as a structural engineer before his calling.

He believes his calling happened quickly, inspired by a lack of fulfillment while living a lavish lifestyle in Idaho.

“I had new cars, a brand new Mercedes convertible, a brand new fifth-wheel trailer,” he said. “At one point, when I had that shiny new red Mercedes convertible ... I caught myself thinking, ‘What would it be like to have a Lamborghini?”

But a new feeling emerged, he said, one that wasn’t related to an unfulfilling game of who could accumulate the most toys in their lives.

He built on his realizations, initially working with children while becoming involved in church.

“Part of the calling and understanding that call was testing it out by coming to seminary. Am I prepared to give myself wholly and completely to the work of the Lord?” Basolo said.

The pivotal moment was when a church in Idaho asked him to be his pastor.

For McLeary, his calling required a life-changing event.

“I had a very bad time in my life, where things kind of crashed on me and I just was absolutely lost. And in trying to find my direction, I would have to say (I was) called to go work at the church,” he said.

McLeary would later realize that he felt a calling at the age of 50.

“Somehow all my life I had been fighting that,” he said.

Listening to a spiritual calling is one thing, but fulfilling that calling could take years, depending on the religious denomination involved.

“God calls, but the church must affirm it,” Jay said.

Those who identify a calling in the Episcopal Church begin the process to priesthood with a series of meetings and an evaluation with the church community.

A meeting with the bishop follows and brings on a series of psychological and vocational examinations.

During that time, the priest-to-be most likely attends another congregation.

The process continues into seminary school and more examinations until ordination.

McLeary found himself going through committees, examination periods and periods of studying until become a pastor.

“I think it’s a matter of showing that you’re serious about it. It’s not a walk in the park. It’s a calling, McLeary said. “That’s why Lutheran pastors aren’t hired into their congregations. They are called into their congregations.”

 

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