A sense of being called by both God and community to authorized ministry.
- A lived faith showing love of God, trust in Jesus, and openness to the Holy Spirit.
- A sense of being called by God and the community to authorized ministry in the church.
My call to ministry dates to my youth. My grandmother, who died when I was 10, was the first to recognize and affirm my pastoral gifts. She was and is the foundation of my faith in God’s love, trust in Jesus, and openness to the Holy Spirit. It was my grandmother who first introduced me to my faith journey. Her devotion to her church, and her faith in God are still alive within me. She was a woman of little means but rich in love. It was out of her deep devotion to God and love of her community that she would gather with women in her church every Saturday morning to go out into the less fortunate areas of my home town of Tampa, Florida to witness to the poor through the offering of food, clothing, but most often just loving friendship. Her life is a testimony of the love of God. She was the first to name my call to ministry.
When I was three my mother married the man that would become my father and we moved from Tampa to Ruskin, Florida where we attended East Ruskin Pentecostal Church of God. It was there that I began to recognize my own sense of call at age 14.
I went through a difficult period of doubt at the age of 17, when I came out as an openly gay man. I was taught by the Pentecostal church that homosexuality was a sin and that being gay automatically disqualified me from ordained ministry. It took me several painful years to untangle myself from these beliefs. Yet even during this time of letting go of old beliefs, and coming to terms with new ones, my longing for ministry remained. It was as if God was giving me the time to come to my own understanding of just what my call was to be. I can see now that God has always had a hand on my life; protecting, affirming, and growing my call to ministry in the church.
The year 2008 was one of new beginnings in my life. This was the year that I came to fully embrace my call to ministry. On a Sunday morning in April of that year I had a strange encounter with God. In the United Church of Christ, we firmly believe that “God is still speaking.” While I had always believed this, I had never quite encountered it in the way I did that Sunday morning at Saint Mark United Methodist Church. Meg, a young seminary intern from Candler School of Theology, was preaching this morning, and as I sat and listened to her sermon I had a mysterious experience. Every time she opened her mouth to speak, I knew exactly what she was going to say before she said it. It was like watching a grade-B movie in which you hear the sound long before you see the lips moving. It was a deeply unsettling experience. At the end of the sermon a small, still, and yet very clear voice said, “She is preaching your sermon.” This notion disturbed me so greatly that I was on edge the rest of the afternoon.
As I was making lunch for my husband that day, he sensed something was bothering me. When he asked, what was the matter, I told him “you’re going to think I am going nuts if I tell you what’s going on.” At that point I started to cry as I told him about my experience during Meg’s sermon. When I told him that I heard a voice say, “She’s preaching your sermon,” my husband began to cry as well, and said, “You always knew you were called to be a minister. You just didn’t know when you would finally do what you have always been called to do.”
Several weeks later I had another moving experience that reaffirmed my call to ministry. I had signed up to be a lectionary reader at Saint Mark UMC. As I stood behind the pulpit and read the Gospel text that morning, I felt a deep sense of joy. After the service, Sara, another Candler student and intern at Saint Mark, came up to me and said, “You may think this is strange, but I have to tell you something.” Of course, I was eager to hear what she had to tell me. She said, “I have to ask you have you ever thought about going into the ministry? Because while you were up there behind the pulpit reading today’s scripture, all I kept thinking was, ‘Wow, he looks so right behind that pulpit, he needs to be a minister.’ I was not going to say anything to you but I just cannot get it out of my heart. It is as if God wanted me to tell you.” I began to cry as I told her, “Yes, I have known for many years that I am called into the ministry.” “Then why are you fighting it?” she asked me.
Just a month after that, on June 22, 2008, Reverend Phillip Thompson preached a sermon at Saint Mark on Moses and his call to lead the Children of Israel out of Egypt. It was during this sermon that I realized I could not run any longer. I accepted my call from God to become a minister, and thus my journey into ministry began.
I began my journey toward ministry by attending Lay Speaker classes in the United Methodist Church, earning a certificate as a Lay Minister. This certificate allowed me to preach throughout the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church. In August of 2009, I entered Atlanta Christian College (which was renamed Point University in 2011) and began working towards a Bachelors of Art in Biblical Studies with a dual major in Preaching Ministry. Shortly after I began studying at Point University, I left Saint Mark and the United Methodist church, as I never fully felt at home as a Methodist. I had concerns about the seeming lack of concern for social justice in the Methodist church.
As I began to seek a new church and denomination to call home, I came to realize that I was looking for a denomination that fully welcomed everyone to the table. I wanted to join a denomination that saw all people as beloved and formed in the Imago Dei. I longed for a church that spoke and acted boldly on behalf of those on the margins. My search did not take long. I soon began attending Decatur United Church of Christ, and in attending this church (and my first General Synod in Tampa in 2011) my love of the UCC blossomed and grew. It was here that I began to fully live into my call to ministry.
In 2012, I graduated Cum Laude from Point University, and matriculated into Emory University’s Candler School of Theology. Three years later I graduated from Candler School of Theology with a Master of Divinity.
God has called me into ministry to fully live into the extravagant welcome of Christ. I believe, live into, and am called to invite others to lean into the UCC statement, “No matter who you are, No matter where you are on lives journey, YOU ARE WELCOME HERE.” This to me is the ministry that best reflects the ministry of Christ. Christ welcomed all; from Gentile to Jew, from tax-collector to prostitute, fishermen to tent makers, poor to the rich, healthy to sick. Christ welcomed all. God has placed the call on my life to minister to all of God’s beloved no matter the age, race, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability, social or economic status.