When I entered seminary, we had planned to go wherever the Holy Spirit wanted Jackie and I to go. In fact for some reason, I think we both thought we would end up in Montana. We were prepared for a rural calling. Jackie started to investigate raising goats and chickens!
Most first calls for pastors are either as an associate pastor at a larger church or as the solo pastor at a small town or rural congregation. These tend to be the churches at are willing to accept first call ministers. They will help the new pastor grow into their role. Often a first call pastor is all that they can afford. So, they extend the call knowing that new pastor will likely only last 3-4 years before they move on.
Being at the ages we were when I entered seminary, we talked about taking that first call and lasting until I retire. This would be a blessing to the church we were called to and allow us to move once for my pastor career.
I have seen many of my pastoral friends move onto their next call. All at about that 3-4 year stage. And I have no room to talk I moved after 2 years at my first call.
As graduation approached I started to worry about where the future would lead us. We had 3 kids living at home and going to college. If we ended up in Montana, what would we do with the kids? The ELCA call process allowed for me to restrict my call to a geographic area. But, the bishop of that area had to agree and have a call for you.
I was fortunate to have things come together. My bishop was willing to work with me and the church I did my internship at had already asked me to stay on during my final year of school. They approached me and the bishop about making the position official once I graduated. The bishop granted my restriction and I was assigned to the Central States Synod.
The day of my graduation, May 18th, Atonement voted to call me as their associate pastor. I had an incredible 2 years at Atonement. If the Holy Spirit had not decided that I was needed in Pine Ridge, I would still be at Atonement. They made me feel loved and wanted.
I would love to say that Pine Ridge is my final call. But I have learned that the Spirit does what the Spirit wants. I trust the Spirit and who knows where we will end up. And perhaps the Spirit wants me to be here for 10 years!
When things get rough at this call, and they do, I remind myself that I was called here. This is not just a job, it is a calling. God put me here for a reason and I still have work to do. I am grateful that the Spirit brought us to the Lakota people in Pine Ridge.
God Loves you and so do I!