One of the most interesting things (in my opinion) about John being a part-time Seminary student is that he spends much more time eligible for Pulpit Supply before ordination than the average candidate does.
For the last 3 years we've had the privilege and blessing of going "up North" to my cousin's little country church on the Iron Range and leading worship. We've had the privilege of him preaching at several churches here in the metro area during that same time frame - usually during summer when the regular Pastor wants time off and many of the retired clergy in the area (and there are a ton of those!) are also on vacation. There are also several "seminary friendly" congregations that ask seminary students to come in and lead worship or preach from time to time to let them have practice, so to speak. And as part of the preaching and worship classes at the seminary they are required to do a certain amount of Pulpit Supply.
For classes they are typically required 6 or so (I forget the actually number but it's less than 10) days. In the last 3 years John has preached 18 times, including 2 funeral eulogies, and lead worship 7 times. He will have 4 more opportunities this summer alone to preach and lead worship as well as another to just preach. And before he heads into internship he will have a minimum of 18 more opportunities to preach and 4 to lead worship.
Now, he can't absolve sins or preside at communion yet but he can bless people and distribute communion. And if he is with a dying person who wishes to be baptized (or, in the case of a child, who's parents with them to be baptized) he can do that too - if there is no access to an ordained clergy member.
They encourage him to wear his collar when he is out and about on seminary duties, so he can get used to having people react differently to him. And yes, they do!.
I love all the opportunities he receives, and by default our family receives too. While it's nerve-wracking to attend worship at a different church where you know no one, it can be such a great blessing too.
I especially appreciate attending the small churches with the older congregations.
They are so excited to see the children - and often marvel at how "well behaved" they are.
They are so pleased that a "young 'Pastor'" would be interested in their congregation.
They have so many stories to share and histories to tell and skills and ideas.
I love watching the few "young" people in the congregation step up and take over - in one case a high school student who learned to play the organ specifically so there would be someone to play at worship!
The first one of these always makes me grin inwardly - they don't know the "practice" we do at home, the repeated admonishments in the car on the way to worship, the pause before we leave the car to pray over Daddy and for the children's behavior. And never mind the day we were doing Pulpit Supply and the children two pews behind us were literally screaming and throwing toy cars at each other - any children would seem "well behaved" in comparison! :)
This last weekend there was a single "younger" couple at one of the churches John led worship at. They were about our age - more middle age than really young - with a young son who quickly rounded our children up after worship for a game of hop scotch on the sidewalk in front of the building. The mom was the organist and pianist (not at the same time, of course) for the service, doing a marvelous job!
After worship she came up to me and gave me a hug. She said "He did a great job - you must be so proud of him!" I get that often when we're "out and about" so I smiled and nodded. Then she said, "I'll pray for you too! You're doing a great job too."
That caught me short.
And I thanked her for the prayers but honestly didn't know how to respond.
Prayers for me too? Really?
This has always been John's gig.
He's the one in the spotlight and, in all honesty, he does do a great job of ministering. He is a fantastic listener, is great at showing compassion and care to others and never relies on his own wisdom and strength for his sermons or anything else really.
This woman's comment made me realize that his "new" job as a soon-to-be Pastor means I have a "new" job too.
To minister to him so that he can minister to others.
I guess I've always known that, but I didn't really feel it until now.
He's always done such a good job of ministering to me through all my bouts of illness and stress and joy. Now I need to step it up for him. My meager efforts in the last few years just aren't going to cut it anymore. I need to quit feeling so sorry for myself and step up to what God has called me to do right here in my own life, in my own family and in my own home.
John's pretty easy to handle - he doesn't need much, honestly. But he does need a wife who does the things she says she's going to do and can pick up the slack when she needs to. John's current job requires call time and I've always resented it. I need to quit that. I need to make sure that things get done when I say I'm going to do them - within my control of course. And I need to cut out the complaining. With his work situation going south this spring and getting ready for internship, he really doesn't need that too!
I've known that I need to do those things (and many, many more!) but it hasn't hit me as truly important enough until now.
Talk about a refining fire.
Soli Deo Gloria.