Over the recent years, seminaries and divinity schools across denominations and regions have seen a decline in applications. Less students are applying for theological education or aspiring for vocational ministry. These trends raise questions and invite reflection. Vocational ministry is not the only picture of God’s calling, which is primarily rooted in the life of the church, shared by us all, but it is important as well.
We celebrate with members of our congregation beginning such a journey. Leigh Anne Armstrong begins classes at Baptist Seminary of Kentucky this fall, and Mimi Smith starts her first semester at McAfee School of Theology. They are both pursuing vocational ministry in chaplaincy. We surround them with our celebration and encouragement!
We also celebrate with Alabama Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, who just announced the Dr. Fisher and Caroline Humphreys Ministerial Scholars for 2021-2022. These scholarships support students from Alabama pursuing theological education, and eleven students received them this year! Despite the trends, God still calls people to ministry.
When I think about the calling of the church, which is not limited by vocational calling, I think about what Hardy Clemons once said, “The church is like a teaching hospital.” It treats our pain and fosters our healing, but it also teaches us how to care for others. The church not only focuses on triage, stabilizing us; but also focuses on therapy, strengthening us, so we can walk with others.
The church gives us strength for the journey! We receive strength when we join our voices to sing a hymn or embrace the silence of prayer together. Without this strength, it is difficult to welcome the stranger or serve the vulnerable.
The recent journey of a pandemic has been exhausting, like running a race, where it is difficult to catch our breath. In triage and therapy, the church invites us to take deep breaths. We hope to breathe in the Spirit of God, stabilizing us and strengthening us for the journey ahead!