Sunday, December 10, 2006

End of a brief era

Yesterday I attended my last meeting as an elder member of our Presbytery's CPM, or Committee on Preparation for Ministry. For you non-Presbys, this is the committee that shepherds and monitors the progress of inquirers and candidates as they move through seminary and ordination exams, toward being ready to receive a call. It's supposed to be a three-year commitment, but I've been there for four. I'm tired.

No one feels neutral toward the CPM experience. I would bet that someone reading this has just had a visceral reaction to the idea of CPM and now feels a bit less kindly disposed toward me because I've served on one. Seriously. I have read a sermon by one of our candidates that discussed the dark valleys God leads us through, including "sickness, death of loved ones, and CPMs."

I am well aware that--as PC(USA) materials advise us--that to these folks we represent the Church, "with the authority and power to ordain and not to ordain". And I have some other ideas about people's projection onto us of their experiences with withholding parents, etc. But I admit I was stunned recently when a candidate complained about how cold and uncaring we are, how critical, etc. That just doesn't match my experience of the people I've served with on this committee, their love for Jesus and for the church, their compassion, and their dedication to this shepherding task. The majority of our candidates have not given us that sort of feedback--in fact, a number have expressed appreciation--but the ones that have felt hurt are the ones I remember most clearly. Now, granted, some of them have been angry because we would not countermand parts of the Book of Order or toss PC(USA) polity out the window at their request. I think we have stuck to our guns pretty well at times when that mattered.

Gee, do you think I may have some issues to look at, too?

The vast, vast majority of the women and men whose progress I have been privileged to oversee in these years are intelligent, energetic, creative servants of Christ and the Church. They are the future of this denomination, and we are blessed in them. One is even a RevGalBlogPal! (Maybe more than one, for all I know!) I am glad I had this opportunity, and I have loved getting to know the ministers and elders with whom I have served. But frankly, it's time for a break.


Quotidian Grace said...

And a well deserved break, too.

I'm very grateful for your faithful service. This is one of the most important committees we have at presbytery. It requires people of good judgment and emotional health who can guide candidates and sometimes say no. That's a very difficult thing to do.

Thank you.

Singing Owl said...

That must be a rewarding, and difficult, place to serve. Is it on a regional or national level? Did you serve with the same people the entire time?

zorra said...

Singing Owl, the committee is regional--each presbytery has its own CPM. Our presbytery, like many, is geographically large and some people drive two hours or more to attend the meetings. Since we are expected to serve a three year term, several people will rotate on and off the committee each year.There are a few people I have served with the entire time, but I've met a lot of new people too.

don't eat alone said...


Ginger serves on the Church and Ministry Committee, our UCC equivalent to your CPM. It is rewarding and draining and it is crucial work. Well done and enjoy your break.


Songbird said...

Zorra, I'm currently chairing my Church and Ministry committee, which is more localized and also oversees the standing for active and retired clergy. It is indeed challenging, yet rewarding, work, and I thank you for your service. I served a term as a layperson before going to seminary and learned a great deal that has helped me in ministry!

revabi said...

The visceral experience I had was that I am on this for the Methodist brand in the district and conference. I have made some people mad, but voting no on some who were not even close to being Methodist, and some who did not turn in their reports. Oh well.
So be it.
I understand.
Rest soul rest.

PPB said...

I loved being on COPM. I was on it for 9 years in 2 different presbyteries. I had a really good experience with my committee (even if they didn't exempt me from CPE which I still maintain was something I had already done) and wanted to pass that experience on. It's good work. It's important work. Thanks for doing it. I feel like the lay people are the most important members of those committees, since if we let through someone potentially harmful, it's the laypeople who will suffer.

St. Casserole said...

I just completed a term on CPM. I've worked with candidates/inquirers off and on for years. The best training event for this committee was having the Louisville folks come down for a day. Their materials and guidance really helped us understand our purpose and provide better support to our inquirers.

zorra said...

You must have met with Evelyn Hwang. Everyone says she's awesome. She'll be meeting with us in January (too late for me).