Pacifist Seeks War Stories

OK, RevGals, I know that I'm not the only one to have ever gotten a few bruises on the ordination/discernment path. I would be more grateful than I can tell you if you would please take a couple of minutes to tell me about the battles along the way. Difficult personalities, rough classes, finances,whatever. I want to hear that the people on the other side had rough waters sometimes too. Speak to me of the -isms: sexism, narcissism, workaholism, etc.

Talk to me about having gotten to the other side.


  1. We had to meet with a psychologist and take some basic personality tests (MMPI, etc.) as one of the first steps in the discernment process. (This is ELCA Lutheran, by the way.) I ended up with this completely nutty psychologist who read my results and then told me about myself - and described a complete stranger. "You don't really like school and are only going to get a job," she said, which could not be more untrue. That and a few other things (she also helpfully mentioned to a classmate that she had a "large overbite") made it a bizarre experience.

    By the way, reservations about me were probably similar to those expressed about you: the head-vs-heart ratio stuff. Problem is, most of the pastors I know who are on the other side of that balance have burned out. ("Leaving Church," anyone??) I think I've managed okay.

    Sometimes you just have to jump through the hoops and look forward to the other side. You'll make it.

  2. Then there was the guy on my Committee on Preparation for Ministry who told me just to plan on failing at least one or two of the ordination exams on the first try. Since I wasn't going to a Presbyterian seminary, I obviously wasn't receiving the kind of in depth preparation that would make passing likely. So of course I had to be the ONLY one in my group to pass them all the first time around. Jerk.

  3. In connection with both comments above on the subject of other people telling you who you are:

    I have twin sons. One of them is extremely verbal and bright in the traditional school-SAT sense. The other has a pretty significant LD that he refuses to acknowledge and a very different kind of intelligence. I have endured a lifetime (theirs, that is) of comments from people making assumptions about them that have no actual bearing in reality.

    Hard to explain why at 22 the first one is at loose ends and the second is a highly directed and ridiculously successful graduate of a big time college.

    My only point is that people are incredibly prone to categorize and analyze and predict on the basis of their (usually unwarranted) personal assumumptions. I'm guessing that in a long assessment process there is going to be a lot of that.

  4. OK! War stories I can do, but I'm not on the other side yet.

    (1) I went through the process in the church I attended during college. They went through an interim and would not even begin the conversation with me until September of my senior year. I went from not in the process to the bishop telling me to apply for seminary in literally 7 weeks. This is not a good idea.

    (2) My rector and one person in my sponsoring church have decided that I "lack emotional and vocational maturity." As a direct consequence, the Vestry wrote a letter of support for my application to candidacy on the condition that I wait until at least a year after I finish seminary to continue the process and apply for ordination to the diaconate. In the meantime, they'd like me to be an intern in a parish and nominated the bishop to pay for it. I'm still (8 weeks later) waiting to hear what the bishop thinks of said plan.

    -isms: I think there's a hefty dose of ageism involved in all of this. On the one hand, we really want young people, and on the other, we don't really pay attention to the developmental issues that are *normal* for someone in their early to mid twenties. They were awfully unhappy when I (at 22) said I didn't feel especially called to work with children. I wasn't yet thinking of kids in the way that I do now, and so that opinion has radically shifted. But I don't think they've forgiven or at the least heard that I'm not where I once was.

    I hear the message of needing maturity. And yes, I'm 24. I think I noticed that too. But there are gifts that I can offer as a priest who happens to be young, and I think that gets lost in a church where the institution and hierarchy is unaccustomed to young priests.

    So we'll see what, if anything, the bishop says (if ever). I've become reconciled to the fact that my ordination would be pushed back. But I am concerned about what I will do with that year and whether it is possible to do what they've asked.

  5. Let's see... how about:

    1. one person deliberately selected for my parish discernment committee because he was not convinced that women belonged in the priesthood;

    2. (in contrast to those who complain of ageism against younger aspirants) repeatedly patronized by a couple of 20-something classmates because at 40 I was "not what the church really needs right now;"

    3. being angrily confronted by my Canon to the Ordinary at a Postulants' retreat, asking how I thought I could take ordination vows in good conscience because I had (with my bishop's permission, mind you!) attended the blessing of a lesbian friend's union with her partner.

    I could go on... but you get the point. Indeed we all have war stories-- and we make it to the other side. Hang in there!

  6. The funny thing about the ageism is that it comes at everyone. Somehow, we're all either too old or too young. I had one of my older colleagues ask me how I could possibly have anything to contribute in class, since I had no experience in the "real" world to draw on. Sometimes I wonder if we're just all trying to undercut one another out of insecurity, or if we're really so insensitive.

    Anyway, my comment on young-directed ageism is not to say that there isn't prejudice against other groups as well. Sorry to hear of your experience, jane ellen.

  7. It was one big hoop to jump through after another. At the time, I was such a rarity (eek! I'm a woman) that I think they packed meetings just so people could gape.

    You'll do fine. I mean it.

  8. Jennifer: Not a problem; I did not assume it was. My point was simply that there seems to be some inherent insecurity (original sin?) in human beings, that spurs us to validate ourselves by assuming we must be "better" or more qualified, and that it arises in all shapes and forms-- and ages.

    Actually, my seminary class had somewhat fewer ageist issues than those before or after us, largely because we collectively had a good sense of humor. Hard to maintain an attitude in the face of the two oldest people in the class (wonderful guys!) referring to themselves as "Geezers for Jesus."

  9. I just found your blog. Just started entering this whole blog world, actually. Thanks for sharing your journey! I am just considering entering the Episcopalian discernment process and it all feels very daunting. Glad to know there's a network out there of folks who've walked this path.

  10. My thoughts? You do this one teeny, tiny step at a time. I always think of it as holding a mini flashlight that only lets me see one step ahead. Definitely a walk by faith.

    First I got through each step of the process. Then through selling the house, quitting my job, packing, moving. Then orientation. Then first semester junior year. Then the search for a CPE placement. Then the search for a middler year field placement. Now I'm trying to survive the papers and exams at the end of junior year. Next it will be surviving CPE. One thing at a time. It is all worth it. :-)


"So keep fightin' for freedom and justice, beloveds, but don't you forget to have fun doin' it. Lord, let your laughter ring forth. Be outrageous, ridicule the fraidy-cats, rejoice in all the oddities that freedom can produce. And when you get through kickin' ass and celebratin' the sheer joy of a good fight, be sure to tell those who come after how much fun it was."
-Saint Molly Ivins