“Ketchup” Post

WOW! I really dropped the ball on this! I had planned to blog all the way through my last year of school and on into the process of becoming ordained. I was also going to add some interesting content. Now almost five years later and I’ve done none of that. There are lots of reasons why, some excuses, some legitimate. I don’t want to leave whoever has been reading this hanging, so here is a “catch-up” post. Fair warning: You know how when your favorite TV show comes back for a new season and they’ve had a time-lapse to account for and so the cover it all in one big montage. This is going to feel a little bit like that! Prepare to feel the whiplash.

  • I completed my course at Seattle Pacific. Had an amazing time. Learned a ton. Got an A in the course. (Which didn’t help my GPA since it was a transfer credit).
  • My host family for my course in Seattle was awesome. I’m very thankful to John and Kate. They even allowed me to practice doing a wedding with them (a class project where we had to pick a worship service/element to perform). I also met someone from Hartselle (the town where I was living at the time) in the grocery store. Small world, right!
  • I started my third year of seminary in the fall of 2015. It was the toughest one of them all. Also I started my paperwork for provisional membership in the United Methodist Church. I applied to be a provisional deacon. (I’ll do a later post about my call to be a Deacon and the difference from elders). My paperwork and projects were due in November. I was approved for the interview retreat in March of 2016 for provisional membership. The board voted for me to recommend me to the Clergy Session of Annual Conference that occurred in June of 2016.
  • I graduated Summa Cum Laude from CYMT and Memphis Theological Seminary in May of 2016. There were ten of us in total. It was both a relief to be done with graduate studies, but also sad because of how much this community had meant to me, and how much I had enjoyed learning and growing in my vocation.
  • I was commissioned as a provisional member at Annual Conference. (Again, for those not familiar with United Methodist Polity, there will be a later post to explain all of this).
  • I started my Residence In Ministry Program (RIM), which is basically a supervision and learning process for provisional members. There were ten of us commissioned; four deacons and six elders. We were placed into two groups for monthly meetings over the next two years.
  • Our conference requires a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE), most get this as part of their seminary curriculum. This wasn’t required in my seminary program, so the conference also offers a Pastoral Care Specialist program in Birmingham. So two Tuesdays a month from September 2016 through May 2017, I traveled down there for education on pastoral care the first semester and for clinical work at Children’s of Alabama the second semester. Overall it was 150 hours of pastoral care training. It was some of the most formative education I received. Rev. Sherri Ferguson ran the program. She was invaluable in helping me define and articulate my call to be a Deacon.
  • I got a new senior pastor, Rev. Mike Pope. We also got a new retired associate, Rev. Doug Wells. In October, our other retired associate, Rev. Bobby Ray Halbrooks, decided to retire for good. This brought a lot of changes to my job. As part of the transition I began preaching about once every six weeks or so and had hospital visitation responsibilities on Fridays. I also started taking on a few other ministerial roles under Mike’s leadership since I was then part of the clergy team.
  • In the summer of 2017, CYMT asked me to become a coach for an incoming graduate resident. This was an amazing opportunity and honor, and I’m excited to be able to give back and still be a part of the CYMT community. I’ll probably have a post sometime about my experience coaching, but that may be down the road. I also coached a student in Birmingham in the spring of 2018 but I was just a sub as his permanent coach is on sabbatical through June.
  • Fall 2017: We have another graduate student in the family. Ragan has started her Ph. D. in Instructional Leadership with a concentration in Technology. So now I get to experience the other side of this! What does her degree do? Well, this is a little simplistic, but it’s basically course design and implementation with a specific look at how technology is used to enhance learning outcomes. I think she has to do some sort of blog soon, so if she does, I’ll put a link to it here!
  • In the fall of 2017 I found myself with more paperwork and projects that were for my application to Full Connection (ordination) as a Deacon. Again, due in November, and again approved for the March interview retreat.
  • The March interview retreat went much better than I expected. I wasn’t nearly as nervous as I thought I would be. The board voted to recommend me to the clergy session of Annual Conference in June 2018. I was ordained as a Deacon on June 4, 2018, at 7:00 p.m. at Trinity United Methodist Church in Huntsville. There were seven of us ordained, three deacons and four elders.
  • In the fall of 2018, I was asked to coach a second student in the CYMT program. This association and the relationship I built with his church would take an interesting turn within a year.
  • In February of 2019, I left First United Methodist Church of Hartselle (a place where I had served for more than 12 ½ years) to take a position as Youth Minister at First United Methodist Church of Montgomery. This was not an easy decision but at the time it felt like God had placed a very significant opportunity for me to take the next step in my career and to be closer to my parents and much of my extended family. While we were sad to be leaving such a great church, we were excited about the next chapter in our lives.
  • Near the end of May 2019, it became evident that the opportunity at First United Methodist Church of Montgomery was not going to work out as planned. This was a very difficult time for us. We had sold our house in Hartselle and purchased a house in Montgomery. My wife had left her job. I had no prospects for employment at that time. We had no choice but to wait to see what God had in store next for us.
  • In August of 2019, after a few months of prayer, discernment, and many discussions with trusted advisors, I accepted a position as Associate Pastor at First United Methodist Church of Decatur. This was the church where I had been coaching one of the CYMT students. While it was outside of my realm of expertise and experience, I would basically be helping with pastoral duties, preaching, and directing the adult discipleship programming. I would also have oversight duties for the staff of the Children’s and Youth Ministries. It was such a blessing from God has this church has been so welcoming and encouraging. They have grown to be family in just a few short months, and it’s been a gracious place for us to heal and a wonderful setting to grow in ministry.

And that’s about all I’ve got to say about that. Sorry for the HUGE catch-up post. I’ll try to do better. It’s not as interesting to just read bullet points, and the really reflective stuff I had to leave out. Maybe I’ll write on some of it later. But I didn’t just want to forget the last five years…there really was a lot that has happened!

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