Things Have Changed

I’ve been rather quiet on the blog this month, but for very good reason. I’ve been entertaining a whole lot of change.

I was extended a call to pastor Unity Presbyterian Church in Temple Hills, Maryland, and on Sunday, January 25 (which was also my birthday), I was ordained there as a Teaching Elder!


That’s right — no longer a “Certified Candidate.” I’m now the solo pastor and head of staff at a wonderful church in Prince George’s County*. Talk about change!  I encourage you to visit us one Sunday at 11 am.

My ordination service was awesome, much more than I ever expected it to be. It was full of praise, full of worship, and full of love. Among my  ordination commission were people of all races, sexes, and age groups. The church got to see a number of dynamic, YOUNG women leading worship, for which I am definitely grateful. I’m also exceedingly grateful that the Rev. Dr. Gayraud Wilmore and the Rev. Elenora Giddings Ivory (the third Black woman to be ordained in the denomination) imparted their words of wisdom as I they delivered the charge to the newly-ordained. No, I don’t think I’ll ever forget that — at least, I certainly hope I won’t.

Girl Power!
Girl Power!

The proverbial party didn’t stop there, as the following Tuesday was my first stated meeting of the National Capital Presbytery as an ordained Teaching Elder. And it was one to remember at that, full of change and God doing new things in our midst. We approved a congregation’s plans to sell their church property for the construction of affordable housing, we passed the Belhar Confession (hallelujah!), and we installed a new moderator and vice moderator, both of whom are African-American! I tell you, this ain’t your daddy’s PC(USA). Things have changed!

Casting my first vote as a minister member! Eeeek! #pcusa

A photo posted by Tawnya Denise Anderson (@thesoulstepford) on

And I thank God for it. I thank God that more and more we’re starting to look like a more inclusive and missional church. God is leading us into territory that, for many in the denomination, is unfamiliar, which of course means some misstakes will be made along the way. But as long as we’re not afraid of the missteps and can learn from them, we’ll be fine.

I’m excited and encouraged to be part of this “new thing” God is doing. How about you — do you not perceive it?

*As before and as always, the views expressed in this blog are mine and mine alone, and do not reflect any official position of the church I pastor or the denomination in which I serve.

The Question I’m Tired of Answering

No, it’s not when my husband and I are having another kid, though I am pretty sick of that one, too. I’m tired of being asked when I’ll be ordained.

In a denomination in which you’re not ordained until you receive a call, searching and waiting for that first call is often nerve-wrecking, heart-breaking, and can test the mettle of even the most resolute Candidates. My situation isn’t entirely unique. Right this second, there are a lot of gifted, anointed Candidates (and already-ordained Teaching Elders) who are fervently looking for calls with little to no success. Such is the nature of things in the Church today — it’s seemingly the laborers who are plenty and the “harvest” that is few.

Without sharing too much of what has happened in the year and a half since I was certified, I will say that this process of looking for a call has been one of the most emotionally taxing experiences of my life. It’s been full of delays, disappointments, dashed hopes, rebuffs, and entirely too much time and bandwidth spent on the Church Leadership Connection. It’s humbling to watch people who finished seminary after you get called before you. It’s awkward to watch well-deserved brothers and sisters get installed to positions you applied for, even if you are genuinely happy for them. And it’s downright frustrating to watch them interview with churches that took one look at your PIF and decided you weren’t what they were looking for.

"Put me in the game, coach!"
“Put me in the game, coach!”

Even still, it’s not so bad because I haven’t lost hope. In all of it I still trust God. I knew this wouldn’t be easy, though I honestly didn’t know it would be this difficult. But I think it would be much more bearable if I didn’t have to field the questions all the time.

How do you explain to people who see your work, who see the heart and soul you put into what you do, who serve on committees with you, who know you’re doing the work of Christ and operating in your call, that even after all this time and after all you’ve given you’re still not ordained? How many times do you have to turn down invitations to serve the Lord’s Supper from people who mistakenly thought you were already ordained before it starts to get under your skin? It’s a constant reminder of what hasn’t happened.

And, if I may be honest, I’m not a fan of this process. I find it a bit ridiculous that, after earning a Master’s degree, passing five of the hardest exams you may ever take in life, and countless conferences and face time with committees, all you’re working for is the possibility that you may be ordained one day. The possibility! Nothing concrete, just the green light to be further vetted. Can I at least get a cake and some balloons or something?

I recently did pulpit supply for a colleague who had to be at a conference. After a wonderful service, a very gracious member shook my hand and said, “I hope the church who calls you knows what they’re getting!” It was simultaneously a jab in my heart and a balm for it. It jabbed me in that it reminded me (once again) that I haven’t been called, but it soothed me in that it reminded me (once again) that I am called. I am called to do this. I was created to do this. I’m in the right place, doing the right thing. I’m exactly where I need to be.

And I know that the call is not an end. It’s only the beginning. The testing didn’t stop at the Senior Ords. It will continue, and this is all a part of it. There will be days like some I already have in which I’ll question why I’m even here, whether or not I’d correctly heard the voice of God when God said, “Go.” And then I’ll be reaffirmed, maybe by a grateful church member, maybe by a colleague, or maybe by some other means. I think a worse fate than not having a call is being in the wrong one. For that reason, I’m content to wait on the Lord, and I’m strengthened in that waiting.

But in the meantime, can you do me a favor? Don’t ask me about it. Trust me, when it happens — when it finally  happens — you’ll be the first to know.