Thursday, March 03, 2005

History, round three

This is starting to get long-winded, and I don't want that. From here on, I'll recap my candidating history in considerably briefer form.

After the trip to Florida, my next trip was a whirlwind out to Texas. I went by myself, because they indicated this was just an exploring visit, not so much an advanced interview (they would bring me back for that, if need be). I left my house very early (around 5am) on a Tuesday, flew to Texas, went full-throttle for about 40 hours, and flew back the next evening (touchdown right at midnight). This trip, in addition to being the single-most exhausting candidacy experience I've ever had, was a big lesson for me in humility: it seemed like everything I said was followed by the insertion of my foot into my mouth. In retrospect, I am not surprised in the least that I never heard from them again.

But for a few more phone interviews (which developed into nothing), the opportunities dried up as we moved into the fall. This was, however, providential, as it forced us into the best decision we could have made: focus on finishing my undergraduate degree. I had been sputtering along, at this point barely into my “Junior year,” and at that pace I would not have finished until late 2003! Instead of changing ministries, the best transition to make was to change focus and return to school full-time. I quit work altogether, took 53 credit-hours in one calendar year, and graduated from the University of South Carolina in December 1999.

Of course, while I was finishing school we began to consider what opportunities awaited us after my graduation. This actually began as early as April of '99, because some possibilities landed in our laps.

One of the churches, being in a fairly nearby city, brought me up for a Sunday morning worship time, followed by lunch and then an extensive interview. I wasn't sure that they were for me, but was open to continued discussion; the pastor of that church assured me that he would call me later that week. I still wonder if I will get a phone call from him, as I did not hear from him that week or at all.

I spotted another church's ad in the back of World magazine. It turned out that I knew the pastor of this one, although briefly-- I had shuttled him to and from the airport when he had spoken for a conference put on by our Presbytery. We exchanged philosophies of ministry, and both he (the pastor) and I were astonished at how similar they were. For a while, it looked like this was going to be a lock-- in April, 8 months before I was available-- but it fell through near the end, because of some concerns on the part of their Session that related to past staffing issues.

After that, we didn't really resume a search until mid-summer, but at that point it took off. Around July, we suddenly had three churches we were talking to at once, and two scheduled trips with the invitation for a third. We had a trip to Roanoke, Virginia scheduled for one weekend, a trip to Michigan scheduled for two weeks later, and tentative plans to travel to another town in Virginia after the Michigan trip.

Honestly, as we were driving to Roanoke, we were more inclined toward the Michigan church than any other. However, once we got to Roanoke, we began to get more interested in what was happening there, so that on the way home we were asking, “are we missing something here? It seems too good...”

We took the job in Roanoke only days before our plane was to leave for Michigan; the folks in Michigan wanted it that way, and we were thankful they were willing to wait for the Lord as we sought His will. We quickly called things off with the third church as well.

[In time, I'll give more of the details about these different churches, how God led us with regard to them, and what lessons about candidacy I've learned from them.]

We only stayed in Roanoke for 18 months; from there we came to St. Louis to begin seminary. We toyed with the idea of candidating again as we were preparing to leave Roanoke, but decided that God was clearly taking us to seminary, so nothing really developed from that.

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