The Opening of Possibility
By: Aaron Rohre
I recently applied for and did not get a job that was outside of vocational ministry. I believe it is my path to leave vocational ministry, and I see this as a huge possibility. I have worked now for six years in vocational ministry and I have been uncomfortable for each of those years. I often find myself uncomfortable in the local church where I claim membership although I feel called to be a member of the UMC. I feel that calling with the same certainty that I feel I will wake up for tomorrow morning. However, I am not sure that I have ever truly felt called to be in vocational ministry.
At the close of my undergraduate days at Southwestern University, I felt what I would term a calling to attend seminary. I was prepared to go to public policy school and focus on educational policy, but chose instead to follow the calling I felt to go to seminary at Perkins School of Theology at SMU. I am glad that I made this decision. For three years of classroom work, I learned an immense amount, and I came out on the other side of this adventure more able to think about and to articulate my own theology. However, during that time I experienced what I would call partial discernment in vocation. I decided not to pursue ordination in the UMC for a myriad of reasons. While those reasons don't matter here, suffice it to say that this was shocking to a number of people, and many people still try to sway me now to reevaluate this decision. Because I decided not to pursue ordination, I had to find a suitable internship to fulfill my final requirements of seminary. I chose to come back to Southwestern University where I completed my internship in the office of Religious Life and have been subsequently employed as the Interim Director of Religious Life for the past three years. Currently I am seeking employment in the university setting and I am looking to pursue university administration as a long term goal.
But that isn't what this is about. It is about leaving vocational ministry and feeling comfortable with that. When I decided that I would not pursue a career in vocational ministry, I felt comfortable with that decision. A lot of people asked questions, mainly focused on why in the world I spent four years to get an advanced degree and not use it. Since I have made that decision I have seen a world of possibilities open up to me that I had forgotten I even had time to think about when I was spending all day in ministry as my job. Author and teacher, Parker Palmer suggests that we often experience “way opening” and “way closing” in life based on the decisions that we make. The decision to leave vocational ministry has been both way opening and way closing for me. I think the bottom line is that I will have the time and energy to pursue ministry opportunities that I feel passionate about instead of turning them into a job. For whatever reason, around ministry, a job takes the passion away for me.
In some ways I feel like Jonah. I don't even necessarily like Jonah; I think that he shirked his loyalty, duty, obedience, and responsibility when it was plain to him what he was supposed to do. For the most part, we tend to label these people jerks in our society. But part of me finds some sort of identity in Jonah. I feel lost like he must have felt when something seems right and wrong at the same time. I also feel the un-assuredness of stepping into territory that must have looked foreign. This might not have been where he felt like he wanted to go, but this was where he was needed.
I hope the ideas and passions I have for living life together can grow and blossom into something beautiful. For me the opening of possibility is not seeing greener grass, but seeing the dead grass in a new way.
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