Search PNC News for stories of people and churches in our UCC Conference:

The Holy Spirit may call those nearby to ministry

I wonder if it might be you.  I wonder if it might be me.                                          

By Jonna Jensen

Acting Conference Minister

I’ve been supporting pastors and congregations in the search and call process for more than 14 years now. 

It is the work of conference ministry that continually excites me, surprises me, challenges me, stretches me and fills my daily prayers with more than words. 

There are cheers. Tears. Laughter. Sometimes groans and growls. There are prayers that rise on dancing feet and a few prayers that rise on desk-pounding. Very often, my prayers have the same refrain:  “I love it when the Holy Spirit shows off!”

Dear saints of the Pacific Northwest Conference of the United Church of Christ, I do so love the ways that the Holy Spirit is showing off in these days, in our congregations, in ways that surprise us and inspire us.

In the olden days, when I was ordained, the path to authorized ministry in and for the United Church of Christ was by far most often a single path. Parish ministers earned four-year undergraduate degrees and then graduate degrees from theological seminaries.  Mostly, they were about 25 years old when they were called to their first congregations.

It’s certainly still possible to be authorized for ministry in and for the UCC by following this path.  Now, fresh paths have joined the familiar path. 

Persons are hearing and answering the calling of the Holy Spirit to parish ministry in all seasons of life, bringing such treasures of life experience. 

One of my seminary classmates was at the very forward edge of the coming changes in parish ministry. I think his roots were in the Pacific Northwest Conference. He began his seminary studies in retirement, after a full career as a university professor.

It has been my honor and delight to meet searching pastors for whom parish ministry is a second or even a third career.  I’ve met attorneys, educators, artists, farmers, pharmacists, and one air traffic controller from one of America’s busiest airports.

While I served as the transitional conference minister in the Maine Conference, I learned a bit of the state language. Persons who did not have roots in Maine (and some whose roots were still too short) were said to be, “From away.” 

In the olden days, when I was ordained, most pastors called to serve congregations were “from away.” Some went “away” to seminary and then returned to their home conferences.  The careers of many parish pastors included ministries in at least a few different conferences.

Parish pastors still do come “from away,” and, more and more parish pastors are coming not “from away,” but “from within.”  Especially when a congregation is seeking a pastor to serve on a part-time basis, it is most likely that the next pastor is already nearby rather than “from away.”

It is becoming more and more likely that the congregation’s next pastor is not just nearby but already in the congregation. 

The Holy Spirit absolutely beckons us now to nourish and strengthen a “culture of call” in our congregations. 

The Holy Spirit absolutely beckons us to talk right out loud about the experience of being called to parish ministry. 

The Holy Spirit absolutely beckons us to ask the question of souls in our congregations and in our communities: “I see gifts in you.  Might you wonder about a call to parish ministry.” 

The Holy Spirit absolutely beckons us to ask the question of ourselves – in any season of our lives: “I have gifts to share,  Might I wonder about a call to parish ministry?”

If you hear an “I might” – or if the “I might” is rising from within you, please send me a note:

Your gift of a wondering will be a treasure!


Pacific Northwest Conference Summer United Church News copyright © June 2023


Share this article on your favorite social media Bookmark and Share