As September ended, Messiah Lutheran began a new adventure. We became a “teaching parish” for a Lutheran student currently attending Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond. Nathan Huffman is a member of Epiphany Lutheran Church (Richmond), but he comes to Messiah to be further nurtured in his faith and developed in his pastoral knowledge and skills. This is an unpaid internship where he will serve seven to ten hours per week during the fall and spring semesters of his first year at seminary. Primarily he will observe and try to learn about our life together, but he will also be asked to conduct a few classes, teach, and assist with some pastoral duties. Later in his seminary career, Vicar Nathan will be required to serve in a full-time internship with many more responsibilities prior to his being approved for ordination. His time with us is intended only to get his feet wet.
It is indeed an honor for Messiah Lutheran to be asked to serve in such a capacity. Certainly, the bishop’s staff and the seminary hope I will prove a worthy mentor appropriate for Vicar Nathan’s background and needs, but you also have been chosen. Our community is deemed a welcoming and healthy place with vital ministry, and you are being trusted to help shape Vicar Nathans theological and pastoral understandings, sense of call, and future ministry.
In many ways, we are simply being asked to share our lives and faith in a way that will help encourage Vicar Nathan and build him up. If problems or concerns are noted, we are asked to help him start to work through them. We all are to serve as his mentors, teachers, and guides – sharing our insights and understandings of God and church along with any of our own lingering questions – as best as we are able. We are to invite him to share in our tasks and help him discern his unique call from God.
In the early church, our scriptures make clear that people sensed an urgent but attainable call for them to actively share in the building up of Christ’s church, for faith in Christ is best shared through honest and loving relationships in the context of our ordinary lives. Each helped in the ministry as they were able in such a way that faith in Christ would be made known in temple, home and marketplace. All had something to offer.
Just as Vicar Nathan will share his faith, pastoral gifts and learning with us, we are asked only to share our lives and faith with him; such as they are. And when it comes time for Vicar Nathan to move on, we will remain in communion with one another – we part of his future ministry and he part of ours – teaching and proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah no matter what may come. Finding ourselves thoroughly wet and reminded once again of our shared baptismal mission, we will all walk on into the future better able to make Christ known.
If you think you are perhaps being called to ordained ministry or another leadership roll within Christ’s church, I encourage you to speak to your pastor and explore the vocations links of the ELCA website: http://www.elca.org/Growing-In-Faith/Vocation.aspx
The above pastoral letter was originally published in Messiah Lutheran Church and School’s newsletter, The Messenger (October 2012 edition). To view the entire issue of The Messenger or to see the full calendar of events, visit: http://www.mlcas.org
Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture quotations for this article are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) translation.
© 2012 The Rev. Louis Florio. All content not held under another’s copyright may not be used without permission of the author.