Change without a Change

It was a question I was wondering myself, but one that I had set aside as “theologically inappropriate.” Gathered around the dinner table the other day following my ordination in the Church of the Brethren, a friend asked quite plain;y: “What’s changed?”

As I said, theologically for the Brethren nothing changes at the moment of ordination- at least not anything that hadn’t already changed at baptism (and strictly speaking, nothing changes there either). We are a priesthood of all believers tradition. So technically, one enters ministry when he or she exits the waters of baptism. So, really, on the theological side, nothing changed.

And yet, a lot did change. As a church bureaucrat I can list all the things I now must do in order to maintain my ordination. And, for that matter, i now don’t need to fill out yearly paper work as I did as a licensed minister.

At the same time, the work I was already doing continues. The to-do list on my desk is the same as it was on Friday when I finally went home. There are no new events on my calendar. And the dissertation was not some how completed when I came in to the office.

I am just sacramental enough though to say that everything has changed. In the public recognition, both on my part and on the part of my faith community, I am not just Josh but am now a set-apart minister. In that public statement of vows, of reaffirming my baptismal covenant, and hearing the confirming assent of my congregation a lot does change. Even as I knelt among friends, family, colleagues, and sisters and brothers in faith, as they laid their hands on my head and shoulders, and as I held my youngest son in the midst of them, there was a change.

Certainly it was a change long in coming. It was not as though a switch was thrown the moment I stood up. Rather, in the 14 years of my discernment, ministry, and training I have lived into a different sense of myself. I am sure there are some who knew me at various points in my life who would be a little perplexed by the way my life has shaped up. Yet, over these years I have consciously put myself in places so that I could grow into a minister, and a particular kind of minister at that.

Ironically, there is a sense in which the change marked by the our ordination vows and prayers was not completed. I may not have annual reviews but I do sense that my vocation will have a different look and feel in a few years. As so many have said, this is a journey. Ordination may have been a high point along way, but it is nonetheless “on the way.”

So what changed? Everything and nothing, all at the same time. Thinking about that answer, I was drawn back into our NuDunker conversation about church planting. Ryan, a plater in Pennsylvania, said something to the effect “I love church planting and I hate.” In other words, no matter what changes, how the work goes, I cannot see my self doing anything else.


Filed under Leadership

6 responses to “Change without a Change

  1. Rebecca Ebie

    Josh, I appreciate very much the comments you made in this blog about your ordination.

  2. I take it this is different than Zizek’s “belief without belief?” 😉

    Seriously, though – great post here, and one that resonates deeply as I inch toward ordination in a few months.

    Bi-vocationality has been the thing that makes me wonder not only “What changes?,” but also “Why ordination?” My wife asked me that the other night as we discussed my non-church work situation and some potential shifts there. Having a full-time, non-church job where ministry gets pushed to the margins is a weird arrangement for a minister who’s almost-ordained.

    Thankfully, I have a district executive who “gets” me as a ministering person and my non-standard arrangement and has been supporting and affirming throughout my licensing period. And I’ve come to see that being a minister called out and supported by the body has done a number on my seeing- & being-in-the-world. Kind of like you said, I cannot see myself being anything other than a “minister,” no matter what I happen to be doing.

    Also: You were licensed for 14 years?!

    • Joshua Brockway

      I wouldn’t claim to try Zizek’s tactic, but it does get to my internal reactions some what.

      I many ways I have a deep enough sense of community that the recognition of my inner call by my faith community is something.

      I also echo Annie Dillard, though a bit paraphrased- If I knew what I was invoking in the midst of the many instances of consecration, I probably would have run away!

      And yes, 14 years- grad work took up most of that, but I also moved, and moved my church membership in that time.

  3. Mike Hileman

    My brother in Christ, I am so blessed to call you my friend! I am so grateful for where God has taken you thus far and where He will take you in the future. Thank you for being willing to lay down your will for the Father’s. As Pastors, ones who tend to the flock of God, I pray you will continually find wisdom, strength and discernment through the Holy Spirit. Make straight the path for many and deeply love those under your care.

    I wish I could have been there to rejoice with you. It’s been a long time coming. Even as teenagers talking about our dreams of ministry. They are coming to fruition my friend! God bless you, Kristi and the kids. We love you all.

    Fellow Shepherd and life long friend Mike Hileman

    • Joshua Brockway

      Thanks Bro!

      One of the downsides to moving my membership and license is that many of the people who have been part of this long journey were not here to be part of it.

      Thanks for being such a part of it!

  4. Pingback: Theology, Ministry, Books, Education, and More: Blogs You Should Be Reading « Letters from the Edge of Elfland

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