My Summer at Saint Paul
So in my last post, I introduced you to Project Connect and briefly mentioned the Immersion Grant, which is what I’m participating in. Today, I’d like to go a bit more in depth about the immersion experience and explain just what is I do here in Morgantown, WV at Saint Paul Lutheran Church.
Every year, Project Connect gives out around $30,000 in immersion grants. These grants of $3,000 each are to allow a student to either spend a summer working full-time or a year working part-time. Students are paired up with a Pastor serving a parish and spend their time following and working alongside of that Pastor. The whole idea being to give the student an “immersive” experience in the life of a Pastor to help discern whether or not it’s actually something that they feel called to do.
When I first found out about the immersion grant program, it was February and the first deadline had already passed, but there was a second deadline in April in case they didn’t give out all of the money the first time around. About a week and a half before that deadline (and after I had all but forgotten of the program) I received an email that there was still money available for the April 10th deadline, so I looked into getting the ball rolling here in Morgantown in a way that I wouldn’t have to completely abandon the plans I had already made to take a few summer classes.
Pastor Brian Bennett is the Pastor at Saint Paul Lutheran Church in Morgantown, WV where I go to school. I attend his church on occasion, but since there is a campus ministry on campus with a full-time pastor of its own, I go there more regularly, and while I knew Pastor Bennett, I hadn’t really spent much time at his church or with him. Knowing that he had hosted an immersion student in the past, I figured he might be a good bet as far as someone who might be able to help me put together an application quickly, and sure enough after spending an afternoon talking with him, we started working on an application and eventually submitted it all of a day or so before the deadline.
Obviously, we got the grant, or else I wouldn’t be writing this post. And basically, the way I describe it, is “my summer job is to follow Pastor Brian around, helping him and getting a feel for what he does.” On an average day, we spend the morning in the office, typically Pastor Brian working on sermons, bible studies, other paperwork and I working on a few other projects. The afternoons usually involve getting out and doing “stuff” sometimes meeting with parishioners but more commonly visiting members who are hospitalized or are considered shut-ins (either at home or in nursing facilities).
Every Sunday, I serve as a sort of assistant to the lay assistant, sitting in the front and leading the congregation in the prayers of intercession. This coming Sunday however is one of several where I will actually be THE lay assistant, and will participate in the entire liturgy as the “assisting minister.” Towards the end of my time here, July 31st to be exact, I will actually have prepared my own sermon that I will give to the congregation.
And so, when I say I work on “projects” while in the office with Pastor Brian, this is what I’m referring to. More often than not, I’m working on my sermon. I also write the prayer petitions used for the prayers of intercession every week. Here at Saint Paul, we use a book called Sundays & Seasons, it has all of the information for every Sunday pre-printed, similar to the “Celebrate” inserts that some churches use. Basically, I take the prayers given and rewrite them to be in a more comfortable language and to have more of a local and seasonal context, sometimes adding in my own petitions about whatever is going on at the time.
The OTHER “project” I end up working on while in the office at Saint Paul is my candidacy paperwork. Becoming a Pastor isn’t as easy as simply deciding that you want to be one and enrolling in seminary. For ELCA Lutherans there’s a fairly in-depth process. I will apply to the seminary that I decide to attend, but I will also “apply” to the church, asking to be accepted as a candidate for ordained ministry (being a parish pastor). Having time in the office gives me the opportunity to research seminaries and to work on the various pieces of the puzzle for the candidacy process (which I’ll cover in depth in a later post.)
I’m sure the folks who are reading this would be interested in a more day-to-day/week-to-week update, but there are still a few more of these “background” posts coming to get everyone on the same page, so hopefully I won’t bore you too much.