There have recently been several unseasonably cool days for an August in Louisville. The breeze has brought about even the slightest scent of autumn’s approach. A few stray dry leaves have even found their way onto my balcony. While the official beginning of autumn is still almost a month away, one cannot escape noticing that the seasons are, if ever so subtly, changing. Soon, this year’s summer will be no more, passing into the shadows of many summers past, we will pass through autumn, find another Christmas is upon us, and we will eventually look toward the warmth brought by the summer of 2010.
Seasons are changing in my life. Again, it is ever so subtle, but nonetheless the signs of the times tell me that circumstances are not what they have been until this point. I’m getting older. It’s more than just a slightly receding hairline or the fact that I threw my back out a month ago by simply coughing. It appears most in less hackneyed expressions. I now feel a weight of responsibility on my shoulders that has long peered over the horizon, but has never been fully manifested. Some would guess that this is the responsibility to take care of myself, to pay bills, etc. While that is all well and good and part of maturing, my sense of responsibility has largely been the full realization of my pastoral calling. I have eschewed it for such a long time. It is something that I have been frightened of. Even being at seminary, it has always seemed to be my prerogative to find some way of ministering where I would not be placed as a church pastor. Now, I feel so pressed that this is the direction my life is headed that I can hardly wait to finish my degree and church training and be sent on my way to pastor a church in North Georgia.
My circumstances are changing, too. Since my previous roommate moved out of the apartment in late May, I have had a lot of silence and solitude. A lot of time to reflect on God and on myself, without the influence of someone else constantly being present. Now, I have a new roommate. I expect to be altered. I expect this new friendship to be as formative as the previous one, in its own way. This is what living in community does… it changes people. We grow. We develop. We discover things about ourselves, our world, and our faith that we were previously ignorant of.
The seminary has changed. These changes have been minor, but they have had a notable impact. As a result of last year’s economic crisis my program has been eliminated, and I will be one of the first and last to ever graduate with a Master of Arts in Theology and Arts. Two of the schools of the seminary have been dissolved into one. I am seeing more and more people opt for a Master of Arts degree instead of following a Master of Divinity course. The general consensus is that in many ways the church can train pastors better than seminaries can. My church, Sojourn, seems to think so, and has designed a Sojourn Pastors’ School in order to bring up ministry leaders from within our congregation. This can be done on its own (without seminary) or in addition to one’s seminary experience. Meanwhile, Sojourn and Southern Seminary have partnered in actually offering a Master of Divinity degree in Contextual Urban Missions, where a third of the degree credit is hands-on ministry work at Sojourn.
Sojourn has changed. We are growing. We are raising up new leaders. Yet, the heart remains the same. It is still the Sojourn I fell in love with two years ago. I look forward to almost two more years of being involved in this family. They will prepare me for living on-mission when I get back to Georgia. Oh, how I long for the day, but just as much, I love where God has placed me at this very moment. God is good and is working “all things for good, for those who trust in him.” Seasons are changing in my life, pages are turning, but God has remained faithful and each new chapter is a new adventure in the great story he is unfolding.