I'm in Seminary because I want to be a pastor. After working in a church for three years, I began to hear my calling to ordained ministry and realized I wanted to do so in the Presbyterian Church. The process of becoming a pastor is long process and vastly different among denominations so I thought I would give an explanation of the process for those who are unaware. It can feel like an overwhelming amount of work at times, but I'm learning the informal Presbyterian motto- "trust the process."
Ordination in the PC(USA) requires a seminary degree, but the seminary is not what ordains you. Being ordained means that I will be a Reverend and able to marry, bury, and perform the sacraments of Eucharist and Baptism.
The process began for me in December of 2015. I officially became a member of Bethany Presbyterian Church and was received as "Under Care" of the Session. This means Bethany is the church that is sending me through this ordination process. I officially became an Inquirer in the spring of 2016, which is the first stage in the process. You are required to be an Inquirer for a year before you can move on to the next phase.
At some point this year I need to go through 2 days of extensive psychology evaluations (5 tests such as MMPI, Strong's, Myers-Briggs, etc). To become a Candidate, I must submit a Statement of Faith to my Session (board of elders) and an essay detailing my sense of call to ordained ministry. I will meet with Session and if they approve me, I will then meet with the Committee for Preparation of Ministry (CPM), which is a committee of the Seattle Presbytery. If I am accepted as a Candidate, I then I must wait another year for the next phase of the process.
As a Candidate, I need to pass 5 ordination exams:
Theology - passed in January 2018
The capacity to make use of the Reformed theological heritage and confessions in relating the gospel to the Church and the world today.
Worship and Sacraments - passed in April 2017
Understanding of the meaning and purpose of corporate worship and Sacraments, familiar with Presbyterian worship and Book of Confessions, and application to Church life today.
Church Polity - passed in April 2017
How the PCUSA governs itself, constitutional structures, and methods of resolving conflicts or programs, based on the Book of Order
Exegesis - Passed in May 2018
Using Greek or Hebrew to translate an assigned passage of scripture, write an interpretation, display an understanding of the text's context, and effectively relate the text to the contemporary church.
Bible Content - passed in February 2017
The content of the Bible and its themes.
The exams are challenging and require you to have both robust theology and a pastoral presence. The Bible Content Exam is notoriously difficult, but after a month of diligent studying, I passed in February. I also am required to do a year-long church internship and a summer Chaplaincy (CPE) residency at a hospital.
After a year of being a Candidate, I will have my Certification Interview (slated for September 2018). I will need to prepare a Statement of Faith and be ready to defend it, give a 10 minute sermon to the CPM Advisory Board, and present a Personal Information Form. If the committee approves me, I will be considered Certified Call-Ready.
In the PC(USA), you get ordained to a position. I will be ordained when I accept an ordained position somewhere. This used to only be pastoral positions, but there are many kinds of "validate ministry" positions now, such as social justice non-profits, education positions, and more. As of right now, I am hoping to get an Associate Pastor job somewhere for my first call. People have asked if I want to come back to the Northwest, but the answer is, "I don't know." It honestly depends on where there is a job opening that I'm interested in. Never has my life gone according to my long-term plans, so I've stopped making them. I would be crazy to say I know where God is leading me, so I'll figure it out when I get there (but please, God, not a landlocked state!).
When I receive a call, then I will have an Ordination service at my church. I will be ordained by the Seattle Presbytery and there I will get to serve communion to my family and friends for the first time.
It's a long process and there are days when I wish I could just be a Baptist and not have to go through it all! However, I'm also so grateful for the process. I want to be able to pass all these exams and requirements because I believe they will help me be an effective pastor. I'm reassured to know that Presbyterian pastors have completed this much work and are trustworthy theological leaders. I am certain of my calling and excited about the journey ahead!