Post Author: Katy Fitzpatrick
I didn’t really mean to come out. I just got the email saying I was invited to the candidacy site of the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry of the United Methodist Church. I’d been waiting for that email for months. I’d considered asking for it for years. At long last the slow cogs of my heart and church beauracracy clicked into place, and I was so excited I just wanted to celebrate.
“I’m officially a candidate!” I posted.
“For?” was the first response. Then silence.
I decided I had to answer. I thought about how much I wanted to say. I have lots of friends who are spiritual but not religious. I have some friends who have been hurt by the church. I have a few friends who are downright hostile towards what they consider to be the idiocy of organized religion. A herd of fears thundered by, and my excitement fled into the nearest bushes to hide.
“Ministry in the United Methodist Church,” I typed with trepidation. The words looked clear and confident on the screen. Post.
I should explain. As the click echoed off into the void of cyberland, I felt possessed with the need to explain. I should explain that I might become a pastor, but I still believe in science. And a woman’s right to choose. And the full equality of marriage. I should explain that God calls me, but I haven’t started hearing voices at night. I’m not going to start asking people if they’re saved. I haven’t forgotten my screw-ups. I don’t think I’m better than you.
I should explain that I’m still me.
I decided not to. I decided my friends, the good ones anyway – the ones who have seen me morph from starry-eyed teenager, to nerdy college girl, to idealistic-to-cynical-then-back-again Peace Corps volunteer, to working actresss, to English teacher – could probably figure that out.
I came back to the computer at the end of the day and was humbled by all the “Congratulations!” and “I’m so excited for you!” My fears, in their thunderous roar, had underestimated my friends. Many in my circle have their well-earned doubts about what the church can offer. But they could tell I was happy, and so they were happy for me.
So I’m out. Sort of. I still wrestle, really wrestle, daily, with this new identity I’m trying on for size. (Do I say I’m working on applications for “grad school” or for “seminary”? Do I say I’m planning on “studying to become a pastor” or “studying theology”?) Often I wait and see, hedge my bets, depending on who I’m talking to, and go vague rather than face the explanation urges.
It’s getting easier, though. I don’t see candidacy for ministry as a radical departure from who I’ve always been, but a thrilling synthesis of everything that has always been at the heart of who I am. The less I explain, the more I come out, the easier I think it will be for my friends to see that too.
Katy Fitzpatrick is currently working through the candidacy process for the United Methodist Church, and hopes to start seminary in fall of 2014. She teaches middle and high school English in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and loves any opportunity to talk about Kazakhstan, where she was a Peace Corps volunteer.