What I Wish I’d Known, Part 3

The Ministry Life Choices Initiative (MLCI) will assist those in years 1-5 of ministry with developing habits and practices for sustainable ministry. The relationship will span the first few years of theological education and the introductory years as a congregational minister. The MLCI is a ministry of the Pension Fund of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in partnership with Lexington Theological Seminary.

The MLCI blog series, launched January 15, 2014, is designed to promote conversation surrounding issues related to clergy health and well-being. The blog seeks to include and incorporate writers from a wide variety of ministerial contexts, seminaries and demographics.

This third installment of the blog series, begun March 5th, asked three distinct Disciples pastors to reflect on what they wish they’d known upon graduating from Seminary and being ordained. In addition, LTS Advancement Associate Julie Richardson Brown kicked off the series.



Clergy Health and Well-being: What I Wish I’d Known, Part 3
–by José F. Morales Jr., Executive Regional Minister Central Rocky Mountain Region

I graduated from McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago, an academic institution of the Presbyterian Church (USA).  Sitting in the Regional Office of the Central Rocky Mountain Region, seeking to be faithful to this present call, I could not do all that I do as pastor, executive, and (dare I say) “church bureaucrat” without the training and formation I received at McCormick.

With this said, I do believe there are things that can only be fully appreciated “after the fact.” There are lessons that take root in our being only after some time in the hustle and bustle of ministry, only after ministerial crud has dirtied our fingernails.  Good thing we have mentors and tutors, saints and sages, who can prepare us both to confront the future trials of service and to savor the past (or present) treasures of seminary.

Recognizing that I am neither sage nor saintly, I will nonetheless share one thing (among the many things) I now know that I wish I’d known when I graduated from seminary. And it is simply this: That antiquated (and/or boring) church history stuff of seminary is much more relevant to the Church and ministry today than we may think.

The pastor, above all else, is a theologian and mystic, who sojourns with people desiring to discern the Divine in their midst, to “see” God at the mill and at home. Fortunately for us, we’re not the first ones to engage in the spiritual discipline of discernment.  You see, those discussions about the Council of Chalcedon in 451 AD and about the historic factors that gave rise to feminism’s “hermeneutic of suspicion”… that was the Church–the “great cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12.1)–discerning, probing, and yearning for a sense of the Spirit in their midst.  For when one looks behind the social, cultural and political curtain of these events, exchanges, and encounters in the Church historic, one sees a people seeking to be faithful, seeking to discern God’s movement, God’s presence, God’s wisdom.

Since accepting this call to Regional ministry, I have forged a renewed kinship with those in the past who were called to a similar ministry of oversight, like Athanasius of Alexandria, Cyprian of Carthage, and Timothy I, that brilliant patriarch of the Church of the East. And whether we agree with their conclusions or not, these past attempts at discernment can shape us, form us, and guides us as we engage with our communities in discerning God’s word of us today.  For I recognize that discernment is never ahistorical; rather, it requires that we converse with the traditions of the past and the proclivities of today.

In ways subtle yet sublime, grappling with the controversies and conversations of the Church throughout time has actually honed me to be an engaged and expectant discerner, which is what the best mystics and theologians do.

Have you thanked your history professor lately?