Tomorrow is a big day. It’s the day we flip the calendar over to the same month that Call Night is on! That means we get to spend four weeks staring at my large reminder written on April 30. In all honesty, I’m more freaking out about taxes right now than Call Night. I really dropped the ball on them this year. *hangs head in shame*
Anyway, as the big night approaches, my husband and I are starting to get more and more questions about his call. This makes sense because most people wouldn’t know much about the call process in seminary unless they have gone through seminary themselves. Consequently, I’ve compiled a list of FAQs about call. Please keep in mind that while I try to accurately answer the questions, I am not a call process guru. I’m just answering the questions with the information I have. Sometimes there are situations that lead to the call process being different for other men.
1. How does your husband find a call?
My husband and any other seminarian generally don’t find calls for themselves. They don’t create a resume and send it out to churches, they don’t give a list of churches they would like to work at to the seminary. Candidates go through a process that started way back in September. They fill out a call application (with their wife if they have one) and they submit their SET form (a form that asks them to answer a bunch of different questions about how they view aspects of the ministry). Likewise, candidates and their wife/fiancee (again, if they have one) will go to a call interview where they discuss in great detail the information on the call application with the placement director. Also, candidates will undergo a Theological Interview (TI) to make sure no one slips through spewing blatant heresies. After all that is completed, then the wait begins.
On the other side of the call–the congregation waiting for a pastor–they submit a request for a call candidate to the seminary. This happens over the course of many, many months. The placement directors at both seminaries will work on slotting their candidates with churches requesting a candidate. Eventually there are meetings with the placement directors and District Presidents (DPs) to place all the candidates with a congregation. Ideally, at the end of these meetings everyone is happy and there will be much rejoicing. Yay.
2. When do you find out where you are going?
Someone’s cruel sense of drama has prevailed over the years so that the wonderful tradition of Call Night remains. Rather than telling candidates in private before the service (and I’m not even talking about weeks in advance, I get why they can’t do that), the candidates and their families find out at the exact same moment that rest of the world finds out: During the service.
That means I get to sit through the full service (which always seems to have the world’s longest sermon), wait for my husband’s name to be announced, and then process how I feel about going to Small Town, Nebraska besides hundreds of strangers. I can’t wait.
3. What if there aren’t enough calls for all the candidates?
This is a scary one. Back in 2010, a sizable chunk of the class didn’t have calls on Call Night. It was a difficult evening. The good news was that the majority of candidates received calls before the summer ended. Still, waiting for a call after Call Night is a hard limbo to be in.
This year we’ve been told that there are enough calls to go around. That doesn’t mean that every candidate will receive a call. Sometimes students have extenuating circumstances that requires a specific set of criteria for their calling congregation. If there isn’t a church that meets their needs, they’ll have to wait. However, because my husband and I don’t have any extenuating circumstances, I’m trying to stay optimistic that there is a call for my husband.
4. Are there any interviews with congregations?
Yes, congregations calling and associate/assistant pastor are allowed to interview candidates. The idea behind this is that the congregation would like to know if the candidate would be a good fit with the senior pastor.
Of course, then there is this crazy rule called the Rule of Mulligan where one congregation from each district that is calling a sole pastor can interview candidates. Don’t ask me why they made this rule.
5. When will your husband start his call?
Not right away, that’s for sure. He still has to graduate! Likewise, because it takes some time for the seminary to compile the last quarter’s grades and officially give out the diploma, candidates are strongly encouraged to wait until mid-June before getting ordained and installed. How awkward would it be for everyone if a pastor was told 3 weeks after his installation that he was 3 credits shy of actually graduating.
Most candidates are ordained and installed between mid-June and late July.
6. Do you have any say in where you go?
A little bit. We are able to list our preferences of location, church size, etc. on the call application. The placement director keeps those in mind during his slotting. However, preferences do not make reality.
7. How long will you stay at your first call?
Forever and ever. At least that’s how we are supposed to look at it.
The LC-MS doesn’t have a length of call like some denominations do. We aren’t told that in 6-7 years we’ll move to another church. Consequently, we could be at our first call for 3 years, we could stay there a lifetime. Regardless of what God’s plans for the future are, we are supposed to have the attitude that we’ll stay with that church our entire life. It’s not fair to a congregation to view them as a stepping stone.
8. What sort of housing will you have?
We won’t know until Call Night. Some churches have a parsonage, others don’t. If there isn’t a parsonage, the church will give us a housing allowance and we will have to find our own housing. This means either renting or buying a house. My husband and I said on our call application that we were fine with a parsonage or finding our own housing, that means it really could go either way.
9. What is your role in all this?
Really, I don’t have to do much. I helped fill out the call application and I went to the call interview. Other than that, I just have to make sure I don’t do anything too outrageous that pisses someone off. Okay, let’s face it, I probably have pissed someone off because I have a blog. Or because I said “piss” on my blog. Okay, I have to make sure that I don’t do anything too outrageous that pisses the wrong people off. I think I’ve managed to do that so far. Yay, me!
Do you have any more questions about the call process? Or have you gone through the call processes yourself and found people asking you other questions consistently?
Cats have a tendency to stare intently at things. Sometimes they stare at a bug, sometimes they stare at you, and sometimes they stare at what appears to be nothing. It can be difficult at times to figure out what they are observing. Consequently, this scenario plays out in our home more often than it probably should:
And then my husband catches me staring at nothing as intently as the cats are.
It’s funny how two years ago I had already worked myself up into a tizzy about vicarage and now I barely think about call. It seems me that I got my worry backwards. You would think that I could keep calm about Vicarage Placement when it’s “only a year” and I should freak out more about Call Night since it’s more permanent, but that just shows you how illogical anxiety can be.
Don’t get me wrong, I do have some concerns about the unknowns of my husband’s call (God willing), it’s just that those worries don’t really come to the forefront until we know where we are going. Consequently, the thought of Call Night doesn’t bring knots to my stomach because that evening will only be the beginning of the real stress. Plus, work has kept me busy enough to not have much time to dwell on our uncertain future.
Still, here are some fun facts about call:
52 days until Call Night.
No, we don’t know where we are going.
We haven’t started packing, but our box room is pretty epic.
There’s a saying that “March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb.” A lion day is a cold and wintry day, a lamb day is a warm and spring-like day. As a kid, my mom used to print off a March calendar and have us fill in each day whether it was a “lion” day or a “lamb” day. As we grew older, we started adding our own variations to “lion” and “lamb” days. Sometimes we would draw a lion with sunglasses or a lamb with a scarf (both meaning a sunny but cold day). Since we lived in fickle-weather Iowa, I created my own saying of, “March comes in like a lamb and goes out like a lion” (which happened more often than we would have liked).
This year, March is certainly coming in like a lion. It seems that the entire Midwest is facing snow and cold for this first week. This leads to the question, will March go out like a lamb? What do you think?
Personally, I’m thinking March is going to go out like a lion. Then again, I’m a big ol’ pessimist. 🙂
P.S.–For those of you keeping track, yesterday marked 2 months until Call Night! *cue dramatic music*