The Rev. Emily Cannon, pastor at Auburn UMC in Nebraska, reflects on her time in the TiM program by writing a letter to her younger self.
Congratulations! You’ve just graduated from seminary! For the last three years, you’ve been immersing yourself in the study of theology and ministry, and you’ve been dreaming about the day when you’d begin to serve a congregation of your own. And even though you spent the first 18 years of your life in the Rocky Mountain Conference, and despite the fact that West Ohio almost succeeded in recruiting you, for some reason you have sensed that the winds of the Holy Spirit are blowing you back to the state that you called “home” when you were in college: Nebraska!
As you and your husband pack up your little on-campus apartment and prepare for your westward journey, you’re awash in a sea of emotions. You’re thrilled to be headed to your first appointment—an associate position at Saint Paul United Methodist Church in Lincoln, through something called the “Transition into Ministry” program. At the same time, you’re nervous because you have no idea what to expect once you get there. You’re feeling a little intimidated by the ordination process that lies ahead; you know that you’re going to be applying for commissioning next year, but you’re a little fuzzy on the details. (What’s this “residency” thing people keep talking about? It’s probably not like what the doctors-in-training do on “Scrubs”, right?) And you also know that you’re going to miss your seminary friends terribly, and you’re wondering how you’ll go about making new friends when you start pastoring. (Especially since you’ve heard that the Nebraska Conference is about to get a lot bigger! They’re about to join up with two conferences in Kansas, which means you’ll be jumping into a brand new Annual Conference that’s still figuring itself out—what is that going to be like?!?)
Well, take a deep breath, Emily-in-2013. There is a lot of uncertainty on the horizon, but I want to promise you that there are a lot of wonderful opportunities coming your way. And can I tell you a secret? You’ve already made an excellent decision; one that will fill your first five years of ministry with joy, support, friendship, learning, and purpose. You decided to apply for this “Transition into Ministry” program…and trust me when I tell you that you’ll be glad that you did!
I don’t want to give you too many spoilers, but suffice it to say that the TiM program is going to help you feel connected and at home in this new Annual Conference. In just a few weeks, you’ll be attending the opening TiM retreat in Wichita, and you will be meeting some of your new best friends. Your TiM cohort will be a place where you can talk about the joys and challenges of ministry, a place where you can be vulnerable, and a place where you can learn alongside other passionate young clergypeople. You and your TiM colleagues will meet with lots of Great Plains clergy and staff, and all of these meetings and networking opportunities will make you feel like you belong. (Trust me: you might be nervous about going to your first Annual Conference session this year, but in a year or two? It’ll be like a family reunion, and you’ll feel like you know just about everyone there!)
And you’re going to have a great time as an associate at Saint Paul as well. You’ll spend the next two years working with a talented TIM senior pastor who has lots of wisdom to share with you. (Actually, you’re about to go into a unique appointment where you have both a senior pastor and another associate who will act as another “unofficial” mentor—and the two of them will give you invaluable insights, as well as some great pointers on ministry practices that didn’t get covered in seminary. Things like what to say when you meet with a family who has lost a loved one, or how to impose ashes on Ash Wednesday without dribbling them on people’s noses, or how to do a memorable wedding sermon!) You’re also going to have a team of laypeople who will meet with you regularly and offer guidance, support, and feedback. Your mentors and your TiM committee will support you throughout the ordination process, and their encouragement will make you feel ready and capable when it’s time for you to move into your first solo appointment.
The TiM program is also going to offer you some great ministry-enhancing practices and opportunities. You’ll go to clergy finance conferences, you’ll get to have small-group conversations with innovative ministry leaders, and you’ll discover the joys of long-range sermon-planning retreats (you were skeptical when you read about the practice in that one Adam Hamilton book in your homiletics class, but you’re about to become a convert!) The next five years are going to teach you so much, and they will prepare you for a lifetime of ministry.
So congratulations once again, Emily-in-2013. The road ahead won’t always be easy, but the best is yet to come. You’re going to love being a member of the Great Plains Annual Conference, and you’re going to love being a pastor. Thank you so much for applying for the Transition into Ministry program…I’m so grateful that you did!