May 16 2008

The Journey

Today is my last day of interning in the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid at Candler School of Theology. I have had four wonderfully amazing and nurturing years here—three as a Master of Divinity student and one after graduation as an intern and research assistant. But I know from the lyrics of Steven Tyler, lead singer of Aerosmith, and other wise sages, who have spoken these words through the ages that, “Life’s a journey not a destination.” Candler was a significant stop along the journey, but the journey of life certainly does not end here. In fact, many things are just beginning. It seems fitting that the word seminary was used to describe a plot where plants were raised from seeds back in the mid 1400s. My calling, much like a seed, was nurtured from its tiny conception into a spout of new possibilities for living and ministry during my time at Candler.

Candler has played midwife to my pastoral identity and personhood while still allowing me to find my own way. This community has helped birth me into a new way of being in ministry and care of the world, my neighbor, and myself. Candler has allowed me to ask the challenging questions and created space for deep dialogue. As I prepare to go, I pack with me a box full of friends, memories, moments, and their loving words as I take the next step in my vocational journey in ministry. As I prepare to be appointed as the Associate Pastor at First United Methodist Church of Amite, LA, I realize that Candler will still be with me along the journey. Sure, the relationship will change and grow, but Candler has become and will remain a large part of my very being and my ministry for years to come.

I carry Candler with me as a journey to the Louisiana Annual Conference on June 1 where I will be commissioned a probationary elder in The United Methodist Church. Candler will be there as the clergy vote on my preparedness for ordained ministry, for Candler helped prepare me for this. Candler will be in the congregation on the night of my commissioning as other alums from the seminary participate and attend the service. Candler preaching professors, Dr. Tom Long, Dr. Teresa Fry Brown, and Dr. Gail O’Day will be with me in word and spirit as I call upon their teachings as I write my sermons. On June 15, my first Sunday at my new church, Candler will be present in the face of my former housemate that I lived with during seminary, who is driving 5 hours to come hear me preach my first sermon as Rev. Lane Cotton Winn.

Candler will be along for every step of my journey into ministry—as I visit parishioners in the hospital, as I lead meetings and teach classes, as I administer the sacraments and bake communion bread using the same recipe we use here in Cannon Chapel. Candler will be there when a church member tells me she feels called to ministry and is interested in going to seminary. I will tell her of my mystical and amazing time at Candler, and I can confidently say that I believe God does marvelous things in the halls, classrooms, corners, chapel, courtyard, and offices of Candler School of Theology. We’re growing a beautiful garden here, and this spring of my time at Candler, I am ready to be in full bloom for others as I move into local church ministry and service to the world. Candler has prepared me for this next step, and I am ready to be harvested.

Poet Mary Oliver ends her poem “The Summer Day,” with these words that I leave with you today. I hope you will carry Oliver’s closing question around in your heart as you discern the next steps for you along your journey.

I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?