Clyde Davis : Local Colunist
I don’t usually get specifically “religious” in this space, though I flatter myself that I often get “spiritual.”
However, I am approaching my 25th year anniversary of ordination to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
What is ministry? To the spiritual seeker, ministry is life, life is a journey of ministry. We can’t draw thick boundaries around certain activities and say that only these constitute ministry. When this is attempted, it is usually in an attempt to keep someone out so that we can feel more righteous about what we are doing. Ministry happens in the emergency room, via doctors and nurses. It happens in the classroom, via teachers. It occurs in the laboratory, via an engineer who is seeking a better way to do something for the sake of humanity.
What is ordination? In my tradition, I can renounce my ordination, or it can be taken from me for inappropriate actions. That makes sense to me. However, in my tradition, what I am doing does not affect my ordination, in the sense of being in “church ministry.” When I was teaching public school, I was still ordained. Should I go back to teaching public school, I would still be ordained, just as I did not give up my teaching license when I went to pastoral ministry.
My tradition also tells me that each one of us is commissioned to do the work of our creator, in the sense that we ought to approach our work as a calling from the divine. Whatever you do, says St. Paul, do it to the glory of God.
There have been highs and lows in ministry.
Some of the lows:
n Seeing what the organized church (not just my denomination) does to the ones who don’t “fit the mold” — not in a moral sense, but in other ways. I guess that, being sometimes a “mold not fitter” myself, I can see some of this clearly, though I’ve dodged persecution.
n A clergyman in Ohio whose diocese removed him, even though he begged to stay and the church begged, too, just because his “time was up.” This is to the guys who were forced to retire, even though they were still capable and dedicated.
n A brother whose conference removed him, once again against the wishes of pastor and church, because of his politics.
n A sister in western Pennsylvania who is fighting for her reputation because she took a stance for something she believes in.
The highs are almost daily, and the Portales church has been a consistent one — what a great bunch of seeking, growing, journeying believers.
So I will just mention some of the laughs or funny events from 25 years.
n My Labrador in Ohio, who ran like clockwork from the manse to the church steps on Sunday morning so she could greet people leaving worship.
n The pregnant matron of honor who looked at me during a July, 90-degree wedding and fainted into my arms.
n All the great kids from the Long’s Run youth group in the mid-1980s, and the church camp kids from the same era.
Swinging my compass around to the future, I can see all of our little kids from a couple years ago are now approaching the age for active youth programs and camping, retreats and the like. That’s great because, overall, youth ministry has always been my favorite piece of the action.
Kudos to the Long’s Run congregation in Ohio, the Fort Hamilton Chapel in New York and the First Presbyterian Church of Portales. You guys have been the shining stars. Just remember, all believers are called to a ministry. There’s no avoiding that.
Clyde Davis is pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Portales and an instructor at Eastern New Mexico University. He can be contacted at: