“It isn’t the authority which is given to me, but the authority under whose I am,” was the answer of a friend when I asked, “So what is it like to wear a clerical collar?” In other words, it isn’t so much who I am, but whose I am, to whom I belong and under whose authority I reach out and speak from.
As pastors, chaplains or church leaders, we can be challenged by the authority given to us, while, at the same time, honouring the one under whose authority we truly are. From there, we engage with the people and communities around us.
Lent invites us to go deep, deeper into ourselves and into the relationship with the One who took up the cross for us. “Whose am I?” can become a question for those considering or entering ministry. It can also be a question for pastors who find themselves between positions or who are discerning a call into a specific ministry setting.
For me, this question came up when I retired from pastoral ministry in 2012. I was asked if I was “done with ministry.” I wasn’t sure. I had been ordained twice, once in Germany and once in Canada. I had served two churches in two different countries on two different continents in two different languages. I loved ministry. So, was I done? Can you ever be done with ministry? Apparently not.
There were friends and colleagues along the way who engaged me with ministry on different levels, to feel it out, to see if it still worked for me. I am thankful for the opportunities they provided. Ministry still worked for me. First, with a call to chaplaincy and later with the appointment to be a regional ministry associate with Mennonite Church Eastern Canada.
In both roles, the question of whose we are can be asked and answers can be sought out. It is not the same as the “What would Jesus do?” movement of my youthful years. It is not about impersonating Jesus and falling short, but about an awareness of where we are coming from and where we want to go. I come to both of my roles with an understanding that we make mistakes. And that we are part of institutions that aren’t perfect because we are not perfect. But, as challenging as ministry can be at times, we can be resilient, and we can grow, learn and initiate change, because we know whose we are.
In the coming weeks, we move together towards the cross, reaffirming the presence of the resurrected Christ in our midst, and therefore reaffirming whose we are.
Cathrin van Sintern-Dick is a regional ministry associate for MC Eastern Canada. She is part of the church leadership team that supports pastors by providing pastoral care, connections and resources across the regional church’s community of congregations.