August 31, 2013

By Fred Koenig

“Candidacy” is part of a lifelong spiritual journey of discerning God’s callings in our lives. The Missouri Conference has an enhanced program for persons in the process called the Candidacy Summit. 
    
“The “Candidacy Summit” is a time for candidates to pause, gather with other travelers and those who have traveled on the journey, and overlook the different routes to which God might be calling,” said Karen Hayden, Missouri Conference director of Pastoral Excellence.  
    
This year the Candidacy Summit was at Camp Jo-Ota August 1 – 3. Representatives of the Missouri Annual Conference, Board of Ordained Ministry, and Center for Pastoral Excellence offered information about the entire candidacy process and opportunities for serious discernment. The summit was designed to inform, support, and encourage persons in the early stages of the journey of discernment. This process aims to clarify roles and expectations of ministry in the greater community.
    
During the Summit, candidates met for a total of six hours with their candidacy mentor and a small affinity group of candidates. After, the Candidacy Summit, the group continues to meet with their Mentor (in person and in on-line meetings) for six months to work through the steps on the Candidacy
Checklist.
    
Tom Fair, a member of Centralia UMC, said he ran from his call to ministry initially, and has wrestled with it since he was a teenager. He’s a police officer and firefighter at Columbia Regional Airport. His current plan is to be on the track to become an ordained elder, but he came to the summit with an open mind. 
    
“I think it’s best to continually reevaluate to make sure I’m serving in the way that God is leading me to,” he said. “A common theme I’ve heard from people all weekend is ‘I wished I had done this a long time ago’.” Eric England, a lay servant who serves as supply pastor for Hume UMC in the Southwest District, said he appreciated the retreat-like atmosphere. 
    
“I like being immersed in a Christian atmosphere, where there is a mindset of respectfulness as we share our stories,” he said.
    
This was the second candidacy summit the Missouri Conference has conducted. There were 37 participants at this one. All had been in communication with their pastors and district superintendents regarding their decision to enter the candidacy process. 
    
“This event serves as their launch into that process,” said Hayden. The Candidacy Summit will now be offered twice a year, so that if someone discerns a call to ministry they won’t have to wait as long to begin their process. The next Summit is planned for January 17 – 19, 2014, at the Missouri Conference Center in Columbia. 
    
Conference Director of Financial and Administrative Ministries Nate Berneking led a workshop entitled, “Is there room for me in the United Methodist Church,” which discussed the current state and future of the denomination. Mid-State District Superintendent Lynn Dyke led a workshop with Trudy McManus that discussed the financial side of being a pastor, from salary and retirement to tax issues. Pony Express and Heartland North Districts Superintendent Steve Cox led a workshop called “Oh the Place You Will Go,” about the appointment process. 
 
For more on the candidacy process and the call ministry, visit www.thecalltoministry.org