I've been thinking about … when God interrupts.
Joe and I had the privilege of attending the ordination of Jeffrey D. Scott into the ministry that serves the Church of the Brethren here in Westminster on Jan. 29. Joe remembers serving as an altar boy many years ago at an ordination but I have never attended one. We were honored to be included in the happy throng that filled the church for the occasion.
As many of you know, Jeff practiced law in Carroll County for years. He is a highly respected professional not only among his clients but also among his peers, many of whom were present on Sunday. Among the subjects covered we heard about a book called "When God Interrupts" by M. Craig Barnes. The book is about the losses, interruptions and abandonments we all experience despite all our careful planning. It points up the old saw, "If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans."
It seems Jeff found the book particularly appropriate because his own path to this special calling was challenged by serious health problems. I find myself searching for the correct word and wondering if there is one that completely and precisely describes what it took for him to keep on the path to ordination despite the obstacles thrown in his way. Courage is certainly one word that applies; stamina is another.
Formation as a pastor was a six-year program of study for Jeff and included many hours of consultation, interviews and, I'm sure, self-examination, not to mention hours away from family and friends. He had already served the community for many years as a lawyer and here he is committing to serve longer in an even more difficult capacity. It's hard enough to get the facts out of a client to plan a response to a lawsuit or plan an estate. Now he has to get at the hopes and fears, dreams and regrets of his congregation.
He has been warned by those who would know that it will wear him down. He was actually shown the door and told unless you must do this, unless you have to do this, please reconsider. It is that hard. As I listened to the presiding ministers speak to Jeff about their own formation, the word "obsession" kept coming to mind. I think the word obsession covers what is in play here.
If you want to do something, to be something with all your heart and soul; if you would do the job for nothing if you could afford to do so, if you can dedicate yourself, once again, to lifelong learning, if you have no need of gratitude or positive feedback except for the knowledge that you are doing God's work, and a hug and smile from your wife, the ministry is probably not for you.
One of my favorite parts of the service was when Jeff's wife, Susan, was asked to commit to helping him with his ministry as part of the formal ceremony. It was a beautiful recognition that she has already been by his side every step of the way and will, from now on, be his constant comfort and solace. We wish them God speed and best wishes for this new adventure in a new life.
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Audrey Cimino is the executive director of the Community Foundation of Carroll County. She writes from Westminster.