Written for the ordination the Reverend Michelle Yates George 11/1/15
It does not take ordination to make you a minister. You are already in so many ways a minister. And yet there is much more.
Ministering to others isn’t the exclusive domain of ordained clergy. Many people in and out of our congregations engage ministry in one area or another of their lives. You have chosen this path as your life calling.
Clergy feel the call in various ways at different times in our lives. We serve as the spiritual leaders of congregations, religious educators, chaplains, pastors, social justice advocates, mental health counselors, systems consultants. Some of us begin with one dream and shift to another due to the happenings and circumstances of life. In the end, where you serve and what tasks you undertake represent only small pieces what it means to be a minister.
Instead ministry is primarily about how you serve, not where or who. It is about who you are, not what title people give you.
Being a minister involves attending to our own souls both at work and at home and attending to the hearts and spirits those we serve.
Ministry is a process of becoming. We ministers spend our whole lives becoming better human beings personally, becoming more aware of our own humanity and that of those we serve, developing more beneficial connections to others, becoming aware of our destructive patterns of interaction and working towards personal change. Ministry involves becoming more socially conscious, more able to let go and create new paradigms, and it involves becoming more spiritually connected, more able to access that which is of ultimate value, which I name God.
Only from this place of personal awareness and growth can we guide others in a similar process of becoming.
When we stop examining and nurturing our own souls, we can no longer do ministry. Michelle, you have spent the last few years in self-examination, study and personal development. The soul work does not end. We, your colleagues are continually becoming ministers. When we stop examining and nurturing our own souls, we can no longer guide others in this process. True ministry then stops, though the title may remain.
But if or when you can no longer do the work of developing your own soul, remember, you never need to be alone in this journey. You are surrounded by mentors, colleagues and companions, including those who are living and those who have left this world. You are surrounded by people who are ready to share wisdom and support you along the way. Be ready and willing to call on the spirit and inspiration of those around you and those who have gone before you.
Michelle, ministry is about who you are. More importantly it is about who you are becoming. Above all, you are never alone in that process.