Overload. Exhausted. Humbled. Joyful. Scared. Prayerful. Thankful. Excited. Relieved. Trembling. Anxious. In Love.
On Thursday afternoon, my Mom, Dad, and I drove to St. Malo Conference Center near Allenspark, Colorado for the Episcopal Diocese of Colorado BACOM conference. The BACOM conference is a series of interviews between aspirants for the priesthood and members of the Commission on Ministry, a group of lay and ordained people charged with the responsibility of overseeing and supporting ordained ministers in the Diocese of Colorado.
At the beginning of the weekend, the aspirants (including me and 3 others) were asked to reflect on a moment of joy during their day. I was extremely thankful for the opportunity to spend the drive up with my parents. Although I did feel some anxiety over being by far the youngest person attending and exacerbating the situation by being dropped off by my parents, I was blessed by visiting the very spot my parents met almost 27 years ago. Standing by the fireplace in the reconstructed lodge where they met as camp staff was an incredible moment of joy. I saw for the first time the very place my parent's life together was set in motion as I confronted a defining moment in my own life's journey.
One of the greatest challenges of the BACOM weekend was maintaining clarity about my discernment process in Colorado and my time thus far in Taiwan. I went into the weekend mentally preparing myself for the interview process by reading and re-reading my spiritual autobiography, psychological evaluation, and budgets lovingly and painstakingly made by Elizabeth. I was in essence attempting to recapture what I felt and knew at the end of my congregational discernment process, I feel called and ready to give my life to serve God and the Church as a priest. Up until this point, I had not truly considered what our time in Taiwan has meant in the process of discernment. In fact, I felt quite sure that my time in Taiwan has not deeply impacted my calling at all, but somehow was delaying or muddying up the clarity I had achieved way back in July.
The structure of the BACOM conference itself is easily the most intensive interview marathon (I hope) I will ever encounter. Thursday evening's pleasantries aside, the aspirants were in for a "trial by fire," as Sam, one of the other aspirants, put it. Each aspirant was given a personalized schedule detailing the 7 personal interviews and 2 group interviews, all to take place in the span of about 30 hours. On Friday I interviewed with a physician, psychologist, priest, spiritual director, academic advisor, financial advisor, and the Bishop. Easily the most difficult part of the process was not being able to rely on my strengths. To put it bluntly, each interviewer acknowledged my resume and writing skills, and cut through the BS, straight to the heart of the matter: is my calling authentic and am I emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and physical prepared to devote my life to ordained ministry. As the Bishop said at the beginning of the weekend, a Yes to postulancy for ordained ministry is really a No to many other things. A Yes means a life of giving and service.
In the great providence (timely preparation for future eventualities) of God, the interviews provided me with a first hand experience of the Holy Spirit working through my words and heart as I poured out in language (incomprehensible to me) integrating and testifying to the amazing work God has done in me over the past 3 months. My bottled up unwillingness to integrate this experience with my personal discernment was washed away and smoothed out in ways for which I can only praise and thank God.
When I woke up this morning (in Taiwan), I opened my email and found an email from the Bishop's office. I was informed that I have been accepted into postulancy for the priesthood in the Diocese of Colorado. I cannot begin to grasp where this journey will lead, but I believe this is a good time to take a moment and breathe.
After all of the preparations, meetings, prayer, travel, worrying, writing, reading was done, I was called to a place of great beauty and silence. In this place I allowed God to encounter me and speak through me. As I write this I am reminded of this passage in 1 Kings (19:11-13): "Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it(!), he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave."