Section 3. Personal and Professional Formation for Ministry
- A healthy sense of self as shaped by God, community, and personal experience.
- A sense of theological identity and authority, while being responsive to the opinions and values of others, including those whom the Member will serve.
- A healthy awareness of strengths, weaknesses and limits, and assumption of responsibility for one’s body, mind and spirit.
- Knowledge and observance of personal and professional boundaries in interpersonal, congregational, and community settings.
- A commitment to continuing education, professional development, and life-long learning.
- Demonstrated moral maturity, including integrity in personal and public life and responsibility to self, family, church, and community.
- to affirm the identities of others, including others very unlike oneself.
- to engage in self-reflection and to seek and use feedback from others appropriately.
- to engage productively in public discourse, expecting to grow and be transformed through the exchange of viewpoints.
- to take initiative in leadership, and to frame and test a vision in community.
- to listen empathically, communicate appropriately, and keep appropriate confidences.
- to function as part of a team, to give and receive supervision, and to mutually equip and motivate the community of faith.
- to be resourceful and adaptable, and know where to locate additional resources and seek consultation when needed.
- to accept and promote diversity, to inspire others to do so, and to minister in a multicultural and multiracial, open and affirming, just peace, accessible to all, united and uniting church.
Matthew, chapter 25 beginning at verse 34 reflects my call to ministry, and my sense of what it means to minister to diverse populations.
“Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who will receive good things from my Father. Inherit the kingdom that was prepared for you before the world began. I was hungry and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me. I was naked and you gave me clothes to wear. I was sick and you took care of me. I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then they will ask him ‘when did we do all of these things?’ And he replied, ‘I assure you that when you have done it for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you have done it for me.’”
Nowhere in this passage do I read that I am only to do this for people that look like me, think like me, believe like me, have the same sexual orientation as me, or are the same color as me. We are all God’s children, we all have pain, we all suffer, we all laugh, we all cry, and we all breath the same air. Other scriptures tell us that, we are all one in the body of Christ, and even Christ said that he was going to prepare a place for us to join him. Thanks, be to God that Christ did not just offer this to the people like him but rather to all of us. In my ministry and work as a chaplain, I am called to offer the same love and care as Christ would. I do not care about people’s race, gender, sexual orientation, cultural background, religious background, economic class, or educational background. What I do care about is people’s pains, fears, joys, laughter, and tears. I want to be the light of God/Christ in every encounter. I want to bring and show the unending, unselfish, ever accepting, and freely given love of God to all that I encounter. After all I know all too well the pain of being on the outside looking in. I know the pain of being told the lie that due to who I am and who I love that God does not love me. I do not want to be the one who brings that pain to another because in doing so I will fail in clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, visiting the ones in prison or the sick in the lonely hospital room. I would fail God in my calling.
In strength there is also weakness. To know yourself is to know your own strengthens and to embrace your weaknesses. Knowing and using my strengthens is a lot easier for me than to embrace my weaknesses. As someone who strives for perfection, being viewed as weak causes me to work harder or study more to overcome the feeling of being inadequate or less than. I come from a strong male Southern background where men are not to be seen as weak, they do not cry, and are often not every affectionate. Over the years, I have come to embrace my tears. Tears are not a sign of a weak individual. Tears ae the sign of a person strong enough to show their vulnerability. Strength comes from within, from character, and acceptance of one’s perfections and imperfections. It is not defined to gender. One sex is not weaker than another. I have been blessed to have strong women in my life. Blessed at a young age to embrace that gender does not determine roles, strength, or weaknesses.
One of my weaknesses that I have come to understand, embrace, and work to improve is that of affection. I remember when I was roughly 28 years old I received some shocking information about my personal character that I began to work on. I was friends with a lovely woman who was extremely affectionate. She would always greet me with a big hug and kiss on the cheek and would say good bye in the same manner. I never realized until the shocking observation was reveled about myself, my reaction to her affection and how it affected her. When she would go to hug me, I would slightly pull away with a suspicious look of uncertainty of her motives. My family did not hug, my childhood friends did not hug so why did she hug? While I did not understand the why she did, the last thing I ever wanted to do was to hurt her feelings. Which my reaction to her did just that. I worked on this reaction and I am now a big hugger.
Another weakness that I struggle with daily is self-care. For many years, this has been a constant struggle. Not so much understanding the need for self-care or the desire to take it, but more on not feeling guilty when taking it. Here is another ingrained Southern male habit from which I am working to move away. I am still fighting the stereotype that in my taking self-care means that I am weak, being lazy, or even self-centered. I have come to understand the importance of proper self-care and the many ways individuals approach self-care. What is self-care for one is not the same as for another.
While serving as a CPE Chaplain Resident, I came to a better understanding my way of self-care. I was blessed to serve along-side three amazing Chaplain Residents. Along with us there were other chaplains in our office. It was during a workshop on Myers-Briggs that I come to understand the different ways individuals practice self-care and just how it is for me. First, I am an ENFJ on the scale. But to be more specific, I am an extreme extrovert. Knowing this has helped me dramatically in knowing how to practice self-care for myself. While someone who is more of an introvert may practice self-care in the privacy of their own quiet space while reading a book, it would push me over the edge of insanity.
I have found several ways I enjoy self-care. I must be around people in some capacity. It does not even matter if I am directly interacting with others. Going to the gym, shopping of any sort (yes, even grocery shopping) energizes and refuels me. My favorite thing to do for self-care, while to some may sound strange, is to get a pedicure. Yes, there is something comforting, relaxing, and energizing about having my feet pampered. Unlike the Apostle Peter, I would have never denied Jesus from washing my feet. Yet to be honest, I like to give pedicures to others as well. The most recent most rewarding pedicure I gave was to my nephew during his final stay at Moffitt Cancer Center. It was a special time for me to give him is final pedicure as it gave him and I our time together to just talk, laugh, and joke.
One of my biggest strengths I have is that do things for my loved ones and friends just to see them smile. The act or give does not have to be big and grand. If I know I can bring a smile to their face and warm their heart, it brings me joy. I love to sit and listen while shopping or just hanging out to hear small things that in bring joy to someone brings me joy. I really love to surprise my loved ones (loved ones are not just my family, my friends are my loved ones as well) for a birthday, Christmas, or to be honest any holiday or a day that ends in y, is a good enough reason for me, bring them a gift or do a good deed just because it will brighten their day. It is my way of showing that I love and care.
Another way I do this is another way I do self-care, through sewing or doing crafts. At my home church, Kirkwood United Church of Christ, when one of our MID’s reaches their goal of ordination I handcraft their own personal stole. I am given the honor to present this gift to them during their ordination service. While sewing and designing these stoles to me are a way of self-care it was only recently that I began to see how much they mean to the ones I have given them too. One of my fellow seminary friends, church member, and friend told me that one of the biggest joys for her at her ordination and the gift she was so hoping and looking so forward to receive was one of my handcrafted stoles. This brought tears to my eyes and brought me such joy. Only to have this repeated when I presented our associate pastor her stole. After the service and after several hugs and thanks, she came to me and told me how much she was hoping that she would receive a stole from me. She went on to tell me how she did not think that she would receive one as she was not an original MID sponsored by KUCC. Her joy in my gift to her was priceless and a moment that I will forever cherish.
Sewing for me has always been a therapeutic hobby that has now touched the hearts of several individuals. In all the years and even through fashion design school, I have only made myself two things: a vest I wore to General Synod in Long Beach and a duvet cover for my bed. All my sewing and designing has been to bring joy to others. Once I begin to design and sew anything, my mind becomes focused on the design, my craftsmanship, and the individual I am making something for. I began to think about their personality and things about them that I know. This is how my creation comes to life in the style, design, and color of fabrics I choose. In doing this, my mind becomes so focused that whatever troubles I have had seems to melt away. So even in my own self-care, what brings me the most comfort and joy is to bring a smile to the face of others.
In my work, as a student ministerial intern, President of the Candler Coordinating Council (C#3), as a chaplain, and during my long-term career as a master barber, I have crossed paths with several individuals very different from myself. I have encountered people who are very verbal in their distrust in “religion” yet they fully believe in God and God’s grace. I can walk alongside these people. I believe that scripture does not say that you must belong to any religious group or denomination, but rather simply encourages people to believe in God. God’s love and grace go further than any denomination can even imagine. My faith is deeply rooted in my understanding that Christ came as the perfect lamb. In his willingness of death, his blood atones my sins. In his resurrection, eternal life was given to me. In is ascension, the gift of the Holy Spirit for my comfort and guide along this journey called life was freely given. In these three acts of Christ along with my baptism, I have been reconciled to God. Yet I do not feel as if Christ is the only path that one finds their reconciliation to God. Every individual no matter race, gender, or even what faith tradition are amazing creations of God. While our paths to find God my not all be the same that is ok. To me what is important is the how we all treat and interact with one another with love and respect.
To help me prepare myself for ministry, I have completed 4 units of Clinical Pastoral Education. During this time, I have received comments and critiques from both my peers and supervisor(s) in a positive yet growing manner. In both my chaplain internship and residence, my supervisor(s) and peers have offered thoughtful insights on things I did well along with how to rethink or re-approach aspects of those same encounters for my improvement and growth. I never left the group meetings feeling as if I was slammed. Rather I left feeling uplifted and encouraged to continue in my work with a renewed sense of understanding. The same sense of compassion has also been given to me by my pastor and the PPP council at KUCC during my time as a student minister.
I have been given the opportunity to grow in my skills to become pastor/chaplain. In my roles either as chaplain or student minister, I have gained the strength and understanding that no matter who we are, we are all God’s beloved. I have become a better and more compassionate listener to those who do not think as I do or believe what I believe. Yet it is how I show love and respect that is what bridges the gaps between us. Christ accepted everyone, showed love and compassion to others unlike himself. As Christ is the leading example that I am to follow, then I am to do the same. One thing my time as a chaplain taught me is that if I approach the conversation from an individual who has a different faith background than myself, I can learn from them and gain a better application for their faith traditions and beliefs. That is truly an amazing gift.