Last Thursday morning I met with an interview panel from the ELCA; this was my final step before actually starting the application process for seminary itself. (some people enroll in seminary before getting an official thumbs-up from the synod, I'm just not one of those people)
The interview took place at Luther Seminary in their media center; when I walked in the door I was surprised to be greeted by student worker Becca, one of my seminary friends from Jacob's Well, who is also responsible for encouraging me on this track. It's not entirely her fault that I'm pursuing seminary, but she was a major influence.
Glenndy from the ELCA Minneapolis synod office was also there - she was the one with whom I'd conversed many moons ago when I first started this candidacy process.
I randomly met the new bishop, she was there to sit in on someone else's interview. And bumped into two other friends/acquaintances from Jacob's Well, both there to be interviewed like me.
In my small, crowded, interview room, I met my panel: 6 pastors slash congregational lay-leaders, including Pastor Tom, with whom I'd chatted last month.
To say I was "nervous" truly would be overstating it. My attitude all along has been: I would like to do this, but if, for whatever reason, they say "no", I have other career choices I can pursue. That said, I really wanted my panel to say "yes", so, rather unexpectedly, I found myself slightly anxious.
They asked questions. Lots of questions. Which is fine, I like talking about myself. Some questions I expected: tell us about your faith history, tell us why seminary, why now, those kinds of things. Others completely caught me off-guard: what does "sacrament" (communion & baptism in the Lutheran church) mean to you?
At least one friend had encouraged me to tailor my answers, not to be too honest about some of my beliefs, just in case they raised red flags. I couldn't do it. I don't know how to not be myself. I admitted several times to the panel, "this probably isn't the answer you want or are looking for, but it's where I'm at." And they just told me to stop apologizing.
After about 75 minutes, I left the room, and they deliberated for a bit (from outside we could hear laughter in the room, and joked that they must be saying, "he wants to be a pastor? Bahahahahaha!"). When they called me back in, I was nervous. They'd explicitly asked before I left, "what if the answer is 'not now, but wait'?" For me, that would have been the absolute worst possible answer. I wanted either a "yes" or a "no", not uncertainty.
I sat down, we joked about the laughter and what we'd thought it meant out in the lobby, and then the moment of truth:
My panel approved me for candidacy.
The rest is a blur. They had several suggestions for personal growth, I took a few notes on that, then left. In my car I said a prayer. Not knowing where the journey would lead, I knew I had taken at least one more step.