As I typed this, I was sitting in the Denver airport, on my way back to Pittsburgh after spending five days back in Colorado. In addition to visiting with my family, admiring the mountains, and sipping 1554 (one of my favorite New Belgium brews), I spent time with my Presbytery’s Committee on Preparation for Ministry and was approved as a candidate for ordination in the PC(USA) . The whole time was refreshing and encouraging – a true retreat which I desperately needed at this time.
First, this trip really gave me the confirmation that I needed to know I’m headed on the right path to be ordained in the Presbyterian Church. During the three and a half hour flight from Pittsburgh to Denver on Wednesday night I read Tim Conder’s chapter in Emergent Manifesto of Hope. This essay on “The Existing Church / Emerging Church Matrix” gave me a framework in which I could better understand my identity as a Presbyterian with interest in conversation of the emerging church. Conder suggests three practices for building mutual credibility between emerging and existing church structures. The second of these three is a “less selective appropriation of history” (p. 105), where Conder suggests that the emerging church dialogue should feel free to draw upon the theologians of the Reformation. Up until reading this, I had felt as though there was little way to bridge the elements of the Presbyterian tradition which I do affirm and the new context of the emerging church. Of course I recognize the limits of modernist theology and would critique much of Calvin, but now I see space for me to discuss the elements of Presbyterian theology which I think do lend themselves to the emerging church. Those will be discussed in later blog posts.
Second, and this actually has to do with my time in Colorado, I love my Committee on Preparation for Ministry. Mary, our moderator, puts in hours upon hours to make the experience both enjoyable and fruitful for the inquirers and candidates and this weekend was both. My care team was very encouraging and affirmed the calling I felt to work with young adults or college students, possibly even in the context of a church-plant. To my delight they suggested that Eileen and I would be a good fit for a church in a college-town. They also made it clear that I need to learn how to rest – a project which I’ll start working on as soon as finals are over. I especially appreciated time with Tom Hansen, the pastor of First Pres. Grand Junction , whom I look forward to getting to know better. Another new friend is Russel, the youth minister at First Pres Durango. It was refreshing to interact with pastors and seminarians from places other than Pittsburgh – from outside of the traditional Presbyterian bubble that seems to cover so many churches in the city, as well as the seminary.
Third, I learned that I actually have Mennonite ancestors. This was a surprise to me, given that neither I nor my dad knew this before my uncle told us on Saturday, but I’m excited by it. Since coming to Pittsburgh, we’ve meet many Mennonites whom I admire and whose tradition I’ve wanted to learn more about. Now I also have a family connection! My great-grandfather J. A. Hunsicker, who founded the Eckert Presbyterian Church near my hometown, grew up in a Mennonite family. In seminary he was attracted to the Reformed tradition, and the church he pastored in Kansas before moving to Colorado was simply a “Reformed” church. It wasn’t until his arrival in Eckert that the new congregation he pastored there decided it wanted to be affiliated with a Presbyterian denomination. So now that I’ve learned to embrace my Presbyterian heritage, perhaps its time for me to learn more about the Mennonite tradition as well.
That’s all for now – more to follow when I have time, as I process through the events of the past few days. . . .