"When the time is right, I, The Lord, will make it happen." - Isa. 60:22
My journey towards becoming an ordained minister in the Evangelical Lutheran Church (ELCA) has not been the quick, linear, or smooth-sailing adventure I imagined it would be when I wrote my first candidacy essay at eighteen-years-old.Instead, it took me across the country and away from my family for three years to Duke University in North Carolina where I graduated in May 2016 with my Masters of Divinity. The journey was filled with second-guessing myself and with doubting if I even still believed in the God and the stories that brought me on this journey in the first place.
During my time at Duke I learned the most about what it means to be a pastor and a follower of Jesus—not in the classroom—but from my trauma patients in the hospital where I worked as a pediatric trauma chaplain. Along with the men incarcerated at the minimum-security prison next door to the Methodist church where I was the pastoral intern for a year. During my last year at Duke, when I began looking for a job and working with the ELCA on further requirements towards becoming ordained, I was encouraged to go straight into a pastoral internship with an ELCA congregation after I graduated. However I couldn't get the stories, the faces, and the names of my pediatric trauma patients and incarcerated men out of my mind. The ways in which they taught me—not only what it means to be a pastor—but also how to be a more loving, less judging, and more forgiving human being on this planet where both beautiful and terrible things happen.
Instead of taking an ELCA pastoral internship right after graduating from Duke, I found myself walking the halls of Emanuel Medical Center, Randall Children's Hospital, Oregon Burn Center, and UNITY Center for Behavioral Health with a "Chaplain Resident" badge on my chest. My chaplain residency has been a demanding and rewarding year diving head first into the clinical practice and educational reflection on what the hospital calls "trauma-informed and empathy-based spiritual care." My supervisor at the hospital is an ordained ELCA minister. God always seems to put the right shepherding people in my life during this journey towards ordination. In conversation with her, I realized that I have learned the particular wisdom I was seeking from the wilderness of wounds (i.e., the hospital) and the teachers (i.e., patients) that resided there.
In October I interviewed for an ELCA pastoral internship. My yearlong pastoral internship is the last mountain to climb on my journey towards ordination. In February I accepted an internship placement at Nativity Lutheran Church in Bend, Oregon. Not only am I ecstatic to live in Bend for a year but Nativity is passionate about the things that broke Jesus' heart—feeding and housing the hungry, committing themselves to social justice, caring for the environment, reaching the lost and hurting, investing in youth with meaningful and innovative methods. A year growing and learning at Nativity Lutheran Church, after four years of working in trauma and prison ministries, will be a season of integrating all that I've learned from these unconventional ministries and outcasted people into the life of the church.
To meet Ryan Dockery, Messiah's '17-'18 pastoral intern, click here.
To learn what current ('16-'17) Intern Pr. Mary will be doing next year, click here.