“Tell us your name, where you serve, and a word or phrase that describes why you are excited to be here.”
A typical introductory activity for most any program or meeting. But, gathered in the third floor Sunday School room at First Baptist Decatur with 15 other ministers in their first full time call, the answers were anything but typical.
No one looked particularly “fresh faced,” as one would think young ministers might. Each person clearly came into the room bearing the weight of a vocation that calls us to walk into the depths of people’s pain, accepting with grace the times we bear the brunt of the grief felt by those we serve.
I looked around the room in the faces of my new colleagues – friends I would spend the next two years learning and growing with through the CBF Fellows Program.
Through each person’s answer to the initial question, our collective desire to follow Christ’s call more deeply was palpable. Our need for community and solidarity became realized within the responses to a single question.
“Why are you excited to be here?”
I dreamed of being a member of the CBF Fellows Program from the day the initial cohort formed. As the first ended and the second began, I watched in awe of the way friendships developed and learning led to confidence, joy, and clarity in calling. I desperately wanted to experience such mentorship, community, and growth as I began my ministry at Broadway, but I knew it would be nearly two years before the dream would even be a possible reality.
A week ago, I stood in the third floor Sunday School room at First Baptist Decatur. I looked around the room in the faces of my new friends, and I saw a dream making its way to reality in the eyes and hearts of the 15 other “young” ministers surrounding me.
Since that day, I have been desperately trying to find the words to respond to another question:
How was Fellows?
How was Fellows? How was Atlanta? Did you have a good week?
All great questions posed to me on Sunday morning by people with genuine interest – but how do I answer? How do I tell them about the friends who are still just barely friends, but soon will be my most beloved colleagues? How do I tell them about the rich curriculum that led us to meet ourselves again, and to meet the people we can be – the people we will be – when the program comes to completion? How do I tell them about the way I felt Jesus speak to my heart, “you are enough”?Can you explain those moments in words? Will I, in my joy-filled exhaustion, be able to adequately describe the hope and clarity I brought home? If I don’t, will my church decide it wasn’t worth it for me to spend the week in Atlanta?
To bullet point the lessons I learned would be to reduce the week to words that carry little meaning. To recount individual moments would likely bore people beyond their reasonable attention span. To flippantly say, “it was good,” would not do justice to the utter depth the week offered.
Or would it?
In the beginning of CBF Fellows, God spoke into the souls of 16 young ministers walking through dark valleys and sacred mountains, and said, “Let there be light.” And God saw that the light was good.
And then God looked at these beloved children and said, “Let there be waters of life that fill you with renewed purpose. And let the streams carry you always in the flow of my eternal stream.” And God saw that it was good.
The ministers soaked themselves in the cleansing waters, and God said, “Let there be bread and Raging Burrito and Badabing to sustain you for the good work to which you have been called.” And they were filled beyond their need. And God saw that it was good.
And God said, “Let me provide mentors, coaches, and faculty to teach these children of mine. May they speak words of light that expose the ministers to the places of their ministry which they cannot see – the good, the bad, and the ugly. May they encourage those I have called in who they are and who they can become. May they remind these young ministers that they are mine.” And the faculty did so. And God saw that it was good.
And then God said, “Let the ministers cultivate relationships built from ashes and formed into family. My children brought together to nurture each other into the fullness of character for which they were created and called.” And they looked into each other’s eyes, blessed one another, and found home together. And God saw that it was good.
Once again, God looked out at all that had been cultivated through the beginning of CBF Fellows Cohort 3, blessed them, and encouraged them to find one way that they could multiply the impact of their gathering within the context of the congregations God prepared for them. And one by one, they sat in a chair and spoke courageous words of clarity and vision into the room, blessed one another, and committed to pray for and encourage each other.
And as God saw them depart from the third floor Sunday School Room at First Baptist Decatur, leaving each other in body but not spirit, God pondered over all that had been created in those short and long five days.
And indeed, God thought, it was very good.