The Call Wall

I just ran across a note I scribbled down during one of the delegate sessions at Columbus. At one of the church agency booths in the exhibit hall, visitors were asked to write names on the “Call Wall” of people who they thought would make good pastors–with the idea that if you walked by and saw YOUR name up there, it might be the encouragement you need to make a move in that direction. In this delegate session, they showed a video of visitors being asked the question, “Who do you think would make a good pastor?” It was a pretty clever idea, I thought.

Right away though, as I was listening to them casually naming names, I remembered two instances of people very earnestly having that “call” conversation with me–both before I came out as gay.

One was with the pastor of the congregation where I grew up. I remember getting ice cream with him and my mom after having led a little worship service at a nearby retirement center. My mom probably played piano and I probably helped lead singing or something. But as we ate ice cream, he asked if I had ever thought about going into “the ministry.” And he shared that he thought I should consider it because he saw gifts would work well for me as a pastor.

Another call came from a professor who taught my freshman colloquium course at Goshen College. I respected him tremendously (and still do) and felt compelled to write about my coming-out-process in an essay. I had only recently begun telling people I was gay and to share this part of my story with him took huge courage on my part, not knowing his position on homosexuality. He returned the graded paper with a post-it note suggesting we talk about what I had written. In a previous mentoring session, he too had shared that he recognized qualities in me that would suite me in some sort of ministry role. But in the post-coming-out session, he didn’t quite know what to make of that charge he had given me. And he expressed genuine struggle with the situation. He really didn’t know what to tell me, other than that the call was still there, but that maybe it would have to lead me in a different path.

I deeply love Goshen College, the experiences I had there and many of the people I learned to know there. And as I left GC, what pained me most was that I knew I would never be able to come back and do the wonderful work that professors get to do with young students like I was.

I felt the same pain as I lead singing in our wonderful Pink circle outside of the adult worship sessions in Columbus. I was honored to lead such a beautiful group of people in singing, but at the same time, I was aware that while I was welcome to join the singing inside the worship hall, I would never be allowed to use my gifts to lead it.

And so I jokingly told a few people that my goal is eventually to be on one of those MCUSA convention stages, leading hymns, just like they do now–nothing fancy or new or controversial. Just me.

And in Columbus, I realized that now I can have hope that someday it could happen. Perhaps my call is still valid.

– Philip Kendall