Jason C. Stanley

ponderings of a dad walking humbly & seeking justice

Category: Diaconate (page 2 of 2)

This is a collection of call stories from those who serve in diaconate ministries in the United Methodist Church: deacons, deaconesses, home missioners, etc.

Deacon’s Call: Lyn Harding

I’ve been collecting call stories from my friends who are serving in diaconal ministries – ministries of service – expressed in the United Methodist Church through the provisional and ordained deacon, diaconal ministers, deaconesses, and home missioners.  This post you will hear from Lyn Harding who is an ordained deacon currently serving as Clinic Manager & Chaplain at CrossOver Healthcare Ministry in Richmond, Virginia. Here are Lyn’s words: 

I was baptized as an infant in July of 1962. While I don’t remember my baptism, it was the beginning of my life in Christ and in the church. My parents were regular church-goers when we lived in Northern Virginia, and we participated fully in the life of the church; serving on and leading various committees, singing in the choir, ushering and counting the offering. I was active in the junior high group, Sunday School and youth choir until we moved to Williamsburg, Virginia in 1976 when I was thirteen years old.

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My Call to Ministry Part 2

College was great! I had excellent professors who were mentors to me. B. J. Seymour, Steve Tuell, and Ira Andrews opened my eyes to the Bible and to the faith way beyond anything Sunday school had ever taught me. They also nurtured my call to ministry. They saw within me something that God was doing that I was still trying to get okay with.

My first semester at Randolph-Macon, the education class I took had us placed in classrooms to observe. We were to also teach one class. I was placed in a 7th grade civics class. Other than my limited experience in the youth ministry at the time, I didn’t know what to do in a civics class. Give me some marshmallows or a few rolls of toilet paper, and we can play some crazy games. But civics?

Part of the project was to interview the teacher of that class. We used his lunch break as our time to talk. I spent most of my time talking with him about faith and religion than I did about education. One day he flat out told me that if had it to do again, he wouldn’t teach. The amount of time he actually got to spend on just teaching wasn’t in comparison to the amount of time he spent doing all the other stuff.

Drs. Seymour, Tuell, and Andrews all encouraged me to go to seminary. They also encouraged me in making connections between pop culture and our faith.

After graduating from Randolph-Macon College in 2004, I went straight to seminary, attending Union Theological and Presbyterian School of Christian Education, now called Union Presbyterian Seminary. My time in seminary would send me into another whirlwind of discernment. I spent a lot of time struggling with whether or not I was being called to ordained ministry. There was no doubt in my mind that God had called me to ministry, but did my vocational calling fall under the heading of “clergy?”

My mentor at the time, Mary Sue Swann, and I spent a lot time discussing this. She would recommend that I read the book A Deacon’s Heart. Margart Ann Crain and Jack Seymour’s words were telling me who I was in a way I had never experienced before. These words affirmed my calling to ordained ministry as a servant leader in the life of the church, being a bridge between the Word and the world.

UMC Order of DeaconMore importantly, it introduced to me the Order of Deacon in the United Methodist Church. Mary Sue introduced to me that the image of clergy that I had – the solo pastor who preached every Sunday and “ran” the church – was not the only image the church had of clergy. I learned that I have a deacon’s heart, longing for the healing of creation, plus mutual and connecting ministries that reach the poor and the hungry; the sick and the imprisoned; the lost and the lonely.

My last semester in seminary, however, was a tough semester. All my classes were tough and demanding classes. My work load was the heaviest it had been in all my time in seminary. After graduating in 2007, I took a year to discern if ordained ministry was indeed where God was calling me. I felt in that last semester that I had not heard much from God on this. I audited a class that spring with Dr. Katie Cannon, whose words of wisdom helped me put things in perspective. That fall I enrolled to take three seminary courses that were required by the United Methodist Church, but were not required for my Masters in Christian Education.

The rest, as they say, is history. I was ordained as a Deacon in Full Connection at the Virginia Annual Conference in June 2013.

Ordained!

My Call to Ministry Part 1

When I was in high school, through the combined experiences of youth group, being on the Ashland District Youth Council, and participating in a summer work-camp called Richmond Metro Workcamp, I began to experience a call to ministry. I don’t remember sharing it with others. But it did reach a point where they shared it with me. It all became very real when the pastor of the small United Methodist Church where I grew up asked if I had ever thought about going into the ministry. As I finished high school, I was much more comfortable with the idea that God was calling me to ministry.

But, doubt would creep in. I would go to community college and get an Associates Degree in Early Childhood Development. I envisioned myself getting a teaching degree and teaching in a school. After getting that degree, I got a full-time job at a United Methodist church working with their weekday children’s ministry. During that time, my father was diagnosed with prostate cancer and in about eight months would claim the promise of the resurrection. Those eight months would send me into a whirlwind of thinking and rethinking my vocational call. The reality of death and loss hit much harder than Bambi losing his mother ever did.

This whirlwind sent me through many days and hours pondering in an empty church or walking alone on a nature trail. I was asking myself questions like, “What do I want to do with the rest of my life? What is my purpose?”

Me on my wedding day with the window dedicated to my dad.

Me on my wedding day with the window dedicated to my dad.

My father claimed the promise of the resurrection on Easter Sunday, April 2001. Before he passed, two things happened. I applied to Randolph-Macon College, the college I had wanted to attend since I was six, and I applied for a new job as the Youth Director at another United Methodist church. A week before my father passed, I was hired as the Youth Director. When I told Dad, he replied, “That’s good, Son. That’s what you’ve always wanted to do.” (Two months later, I was accepted at Randolph-Macon.)

In June of my first summer as a Youth Director, I took a small group of youth to Durham, North Carolina for a youth work-camp. The work crew that I was assigned to worked on the home of an elderly African-American woman who had adopted two teenage girls and was battling cancer. I had resolved, subconsciously, not to get attached. I did not want to experience the grief and pain that I had just experienced through the loss of my father.

During lunch on that first day, the youth on the crew had invited the home owner to eat with us and join us for our devotion time. The youth had decided that we would eat lunch in her bedroom because she was unable to move freely on her own. I was the last one to enter the room, and when I did, the home owner announced, “There’s the minister!” I was quick to correct her that I was a not a minister, and she was quick to correct me that I was. “When you walked passed me this morning,” she said, “I felt the Holy Spirit move through you.” Not sure how to respond, I politely said, “Thank you,” and sat with the youth for lunch and our devotion.

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