The call to religion doesn’t always come with a dramatic pilgrimage

December 4, 2013 

I serve as pastor for the Fox Island United Church of Christ, and I have been there for more than three years.

Prior to ministry, I was a mental health counselor, although, as funding sources and insurance plans changed, I became a behavioral health counselor as well as clinical supervisor somewhere along the way.

I discovered my path toward ministry through a series of United Church of Christ pilgrimage retreats. Warning: be careful about going off into the woods with a group of people who are prepared to spend a weekend in prayer and meditation with a full 24 hours of silence.

Outfitted with Bibles, journals and books by spiritual masters, our task was to realize how we might bring a bit more light and love into the world.

Open to the grace of the Jesus that I came to know through the United Church of Christ, I served on boards and committees, taught Christian formation classes; led new-member orientations and facilitated women’s groups. It just wasn’t enough for me.

At the church, we say: No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.

I felt a yearning for a deeper commitment to my faith, thus the trip to Templed Hills in the woods. A plan emerged.

I did not immediately return home to pack up all my belongings to head for seminary. Instead, I finished the degree I was working on in psychology, applied for a fellowship, completed graduate school and worked in mental health as I remained curious about what might be next.

Years later, the door opened for me to enroll at Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, Calif. That was followed by a call to my first church in rural Ohio and ordination.

As I share my story, I am reminded that God’s call is not always dramatic. There are stories in scripture like that of Paul, who, before he became Christ’s most faithful follower, persecuted Christian.

Yes, one day the disciples were fishermen, and then they left all behind to follow Jesus.

We have all heard radical conversion stories, from jailhouse to church or addiction to pastor. Stories that may be authentic yet aren’t the norm.

About writing, E. L Doctrow once said: “You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

Faith, too, is often like having really good headlights. Sometimes we see just as far as we need to in the moment, whether we cross the Narrows, head over the pass or traverse the country.

God’s light shines foot by foot, mile by mile, day by day in life’s journey.

I look forward to the journey with you.

On Faith columnist Janet Matthews is the pastor at Fox Island United Church of Christ.

The Peninsula Gateway is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service