It’s a big week for both LC-MS seminaries–Vicarage Placements and Call Nights are here!
That means it’s been a year since I anxiously waited to hear where God was calling my husband. Life looks drastically different for us now than it did then. We faced so many unknowns: What sort of church would we go to? What would life be like with our unborn child? Where would we live? How far would we be from family? Would we have to buy our own home?
Now we have significantly less known unknowns (because despite our best laid plans, we never fully know what life holds in store for us). Babykins made her grand entrance 7 months ago. We are slowly settling into our life in a small town and looking forward to having more than a year to adjust. Best of all, we never again have to go through the drama that is known as Call Night–a.k.a. The night you receive life-altering news during a church service in front of a couple hundred people.
Instead, I’ll watch this year’s service online and excitedly/nervously wait to hear where God is calling dear friends. Prayers for peace for all of you awaiting placements and calls!
Click here for more information about watching Concordia Theological Seminary Fort Wayne’s Vicarage Placement and Call services.
Click here for more information about watching Concordia Seminary St. Louis’s Vicarage Placement and Call services.
At the beginning of this school year, I realized that I really shouldn’t put off thinking about getting my husband an ordination stole. So one day in September, I set out to plan how to make sure my husband had a decent red stole for his ordination. I immediately became confused and overwhelmed.
For the past 3 years, I heard wives talk about making their husband’s ordination stole for a gift. This plan wouldn’t work for me because I don’t know how to sew (nor did I think learning to sew with my husband’s ordination stole was a good idea). My next thought was to see about getting a nice custom made stole. However, those options proved to be quite pricey. My third thought was to ask my mom to make one. I tried to find a good sewing pattern for a stole, but I can’t recognize a good pattern from a bad one because, well, I don’t know how to sew. I never got around to asking my mom about making a stole.
Months passed and soon it was April. One night, I had a “Holy-crap-you’re-getting-a-call-and-we-have-so-much-to-do” fit and I finally admitted to my husband that I had no idea how to get an ordination stole for him. My husband, being the rational person that he is, explained to me that he never expected me to make him a stole. He then asked if I wanted him to figure out the stole. I told him, “Yes.”
So, my husband set out to find himself an ordination stole.
Thankfully, one of my husband’s classmates had assumed that he would need to buy his own stoles for his first call (something that had never occurred to me) and had already searched for inexpensive stoles. He pointed my husband to this website: http://catholicliturgicals.com/stoles.php.
The site was the perfect solution to my husband’s stole issue. Even though the site is designed for Catholics, some of the stoles were basic enough seem Lutheran. Even better, the stoles were inexpensive. And it turned out that the church that called my husband didn’t have stoles, so he needed to buy a set anyway. Consequently, he was able to purchase a very basic set for less than $100. Are the stoles the fanciest things you’ll ever see? No. Will the work well for a new pastor just starting his first call? Absolutely yes!
Of course, now I need to think of a new gift for his ordination. . .
Where have pastors you know gotten stoles? If you are a pastor’s wife, what did you get your husband for his ordination?
April 30 was Call Night (sorry it’s taken me so long to update–life has been a little busy since that night). After months of anticipation and prayer, found out that my husband has been called to a church in northern Iowa.
All this Hawkeye can say to that is . . . WHOOHOO! Really, returning to Iowa has been my dream throughout the seminary years.
Anyway, my husband and I have fielded many questions over the last few days about his call, so I thought I would answer the most common ones here:
1. What is the church like? The church is on the smaller size of average with 250 baptized members and about 90 people worshiping weekly. We’ve been told that the congregation uses the liturgies from Lutheran Service Book (yay!).
2. What is the town like? The town population is just over 1600 people, so small (although not as small as some towns that our friends are moving to). However, a bigger city–well, Iowa big–is about 15 miles away. Stores like Target, Kohl’s, and Hy-Vee (the regional grocery store) are about 20 minutes away. The town itself has a school, post office, library, and the local grocery store.
Oh, yes, there are about 5 other churches in town. I’m not sure what the bar situation is like
3. What type of housing do you have? Parsonage, yay! I don’t know much about the house itself, other than it has 2 bedrooms with a potential 3rd bedroom in the basement and is about .5 miles from the church.
4. How close are you to family? We are 1.5 hours from my father-in-law and 2.5 hours from my parents, siblings, and one of my sisters-in-law and her husband. For those of you wondering, we are pleased to be close to family. We also have many friends within that radius as well.
5. When will you move? Not immediately. I’m currently still working and my husband won’t actually graduate for another 2 weeks (yes, he does actually have to finish his classes). Likewise, the current pastor won’t retire until the end of June. Consequently, we’re tentatively thinking of moving at the end of June and having my husband’s ordination/installation sometime in the first couple of weeks in July.
6. What will you do after you move? Well, I’m retiring from my nanny career to become a stay-at-home mom. Granted, I’ll have a few months to kill before Baby arrives, but right now I’m looking forward to some downtime. Work has kept me fairly buys this year, so I have a bunch of little projects that I’ve put aside until I had more time. One of those projects is learning how to birth a baby–rumor has it that stork doesn’t actually give you a baby. o.O I’ve also recently started writing some articles for a website, so I would like to continue with that work even after Baby comes.
There’s no hiding from it now. . .
With only 6 days remaining until Call Night, it’s impossible to put it to the back of my mind. Sunday is what I’m declaring the “Call Vigil”. It’s the day that the placement director will make the dreaded phone calls to the candidates who won’t have a call on Wednesday night.*
After we get through Sunday, we’ll know for sure that my husband will have a call. But where that call will be. . . we’ll find out sometime after 7 p.m. Wednesday night.
*Rumor has it that there are more calls than candidates this year–a good sign for a happy Call Night. Still, it’s hard to keep the “What ifs” at bay.
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?
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.
A few months ago, my husband and I completed the call interview with the placement director, thus ending my involvement in the call process. My husband had a few more items on his to-do list. Handing in his SET form was one of them (from what I understand, the SET form is a call candidate’s public statement of his beliefs and viewpoints about the ministry. I could be under-describing or just plain wrong in my explanation). The other big thing that my husband had to complete was his Theological Interview (TI).
The TI is when a fourth-year seminarian is interviewed by two professors on theological questions to make sure that no potential pastors are spewing heresies. If this sounds intimidating, that’s because it is. The good news is that most students pass their TIs, but nobody wants to be that guy who fails.
My husband had his TI on Wednesday and he passed. Hooray! I can’t really go into more details about the TI because a) my husband doesn’t discuss his worry as readily as I do and b) the professors asked him questions that I wouldn’t really understand. It’s hard to make something sound interesting when you have no idea what you’re talking about. Not to mention that while I knew I should only be sympathetic for my husband leading up to his TI, part of me was still thinking this:
At any rate, with my husband completing his TI, that means that he is now done with his part of the call process (except for continuing to pass his classes). Aside from the possibility of an interview, we’ll most likely hear nothing about Call until April 30.
In case you’re wondering, that’s 102 days from now–not that I’m counting.
Last year, October, November, and December were terrible months for me. I struggled to adjust to our move. I felt lonely. I was diagnosed with anxiety and went on an anti-depressant. It wasn’t a great time in my life, especially since I quit going to church during those months.
Thankfully, things eventually did get better. I returned to church, a painful but necessary ordeal. My panic attacks began to decline and finally stopped for the first time in three years. I’m still on medication but it seems to help keep me in balance. Most of all, I feel whole. I didn’t realize it while it was happening, but a year ago I lived in a painful fog. Most of the time I only felt apathy, sadness, or hopelessness. Now I might have a stressful day at work or a chaotic weekend, but my base mood is contentment. I can go to church again without trying to fight off uncontrollable panic. Best of all, I feel like I can laugh again: Laugh with my family and friends, laugh at what goes on around me, and laugh at myself.
However, while I am better, I am not healed. The anxiety and depression is under control but it still lurks in my mind. The past can haunt me. Sometimes I’m unable to find a good answer to the question, “How was vicarage?” It also scares me that things were so dark without me realizing it. Likewise, the future frightens me. I try not to think about the unknowns, but sometimes the old feeling of panic resurfaces when I think about having to face a new congregation this summer. Then I know that while I’ve momentarily won the battle with anxiety, it still waits to resurface when I’m at my most vulnerable.
Yet I still have hope despite my worries. I know now that even if my worst fears happen, I will survive. I’m starting to formulate a preemptive strike against anxiety by preparing to find a counselor as soon as we know where we are moving. And because now I know that I am not indestructible, my prayer to God is no longer “Lord, You must keep this from happening” but rather, “Lord, keep me faithful in my weakness, because I cannot. Have mercy on me.”
One of the
frusterating interesting things about waiting for a call is our unknown housing situation. Will we live in a parsonage? Will we rent a house? Or will we go to a town so small that there aren’t any houses to rent so we’ll have to buy a house? The final option creates a bit of panic for my husband and me, mostly because we have no idea how to buy a house. The prospect of having a 6-weekish time-span to buy a house for the first time seems insane, but we’re trying to prepare ourselves for the possibility.
We realize that the cost of buying a house doesn’t simply include the down payment and a monthly mortgage. It also includes homeowner’s insurance, upkeep expenses, and utilities. Likewise, it includes the possibility that we will have to buy major appliances.
I first thought of the appliance situation almost 3 years ago and had a snit fit when I found how much refrigerators, washers, and dryers cost. Then I proceeded to make a budget line for appliances and have been putting small amounts of money into it ever since. Unfortunately, our limited saving for appliances has not met the cost expense of buying multiple appliances at one time, especially because I want to buy energy-efficient models. Likewise, I’m completely against us purchasing appliances on a payment plan. If we don’t have money in the bank for a certain model, we don’t buy it (at least that’s my idea. I actually haven’t talked this over with my husband yet. . .).
Consequently, I’ve started making a mental list of the order we should buy appliances:
A refrigerator would be most important because I can think of no other alternatives for keeping food cold. While cooking without an oven would be annoying, most foods can be cooked in the microwave. I know oven-cooked chicken tastes way better than microwave-cooked chicken, but I’m thinking appliance-buying triage here! To cover the lack of a stove top, we could buy a camping stove. We also have a grill to help with cooking. However, I wouldn’t want to go too long without an oven, hence it’s rank in my appliance-buying list.
After a refrigerator and oven, I would like to buy a washer. I’ve been spoiled the last three years by having a washer in our home, but I realize that I can do our laundry at a laundromat. It just doesn’t sound very fun.
After the washer, I would want to buy a dishwasher. Yes, that’s right, I would want to buy a dishwasher before a dryer. I hate, hate, HATE doing dishes. Thankfully, my husband washes them most of the time but we both agree that we would be thrilled to have a dishwasher again.
Finally, I would buy a dryer. . .maybe. Again, I’ve been spoiled by having a dryer in our home for the clothes I want to dry quickly or shrink, but I try to line-dry as much as I can. Buying a few more drying racks would certainly be cheaper than purchasing a dryer. Plus, clothes last longer when they are line-dried (at least that’s what I tell myself).
Of course, we may wind up in a parsonage that has all the major appliances, which means all this pondering has been for naught.
What appliance do you think is most necessary? Have you gone without a major appliance for a long period of time?
Just to let you know, yesterday marked 6–6 months until call night, ah, ah, ah!