Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Call 2

At eighteen years of age, I was sure that God was calling me to preach. What does an eighteen year old know? So, I told my pastor about it. He immediately tried to talk me out of it. He told me all of the bad things about it and why I should do something else instead. I listened but still felt compelled to preach.

The first step in the process then was to appear before the Charge Conference, that's the Church Council plus the District Superintendent. Everyone who goes into ministry in the church must appear and be voted on by the Charge Conference at some point. Back when I did it this was the first step. At eighteen I appeared before the people who reared me and loved me and nurtured me in the faith. They voted. Then it had to be 100% affirmative; now, I think it's 3/4's or something like that. The vote was taken by secret ballot and I passed.

One of the children in the congregation was there with dad and she asked: "Did David win?" From there I went on, at eighteen, to appear before the District Committee on Ordained Ministry. The Chair of the committee was Dr. Francis Cunningham, Senior Pastor of Bethel UMC, where I serve now. Dr. Adlai Holler was the District Superintendent. Two of my best friends are from that family of Methodist preachers. The Committee passed on me and I went off to Duke Divinity School for two weeks for Licensing School. When I returned, the Committee on Ordained Ministry awarded my a License to Preach.

In the process, of preaching some and serving and working my way through college, my family Physician, whom I was seeing because I had a cold, said he wanted to talk to me. He said: "I understand you're going to seminary." I said: "Yes." He said: "I don't have any children and I was wondering. I will send you to Medical School and set you up in my practice when you graduate. You can do ministry right here."

It was the best offer anybody ever made me. Dr. Switzer was single and unmarried. He was genuine in his offer. I told him I didn't dislike science but it was not my favorite subject. I was going to seminary.

Armed with a License to Preach I preached some to fill in for preachers in their churches. Then, when I was a junior in college, I was hired to be Minister of Youth at Grace UMC Union. I spent two years and a half there before going to Duke.

Every once in a while it's good to remember what it was that brought you to where you are now- God, the church, family, friends. During Lent, when the cross is so real to us, we are minded that this God is still making himself a people, one person at a time.

Dave Nichols

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Thanks for checking out my blog. I'm new to this, as you can probably see. But, I, like you, have convictions and ideas worth sharing. I hope this will be an opportunity to connect with others who are Christian and/or religious. I am happily United Methodist. I am committed to the basic teachings of our church, and to the compassionate outreach to the world.

I hope these pastoral ponderings will generate something in you that is hopeful.

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A graduate of Newberry College and Duke University Divinity School.  I have served as a pastor in the United Methodist Church since 1975.

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