Illustration by Franziska Barcyzk
"Here I am, send me” – the famed phrase from Isaiah – is not what I said when I was asked to serve as a member of the board of the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg in 2015.
I also did not say it when I was asked to serve on the transition and search committees for its merger with another historic seminary, the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia.
And it certainly was not what I said when I found myself serving as vice chair – and later, unexpectedly acting as chair – of the new entity, United Lutheran Seminary, during a time of crisis. It would be more accurate to say my service was a bit more, well, “reactive.” I simply said yes when asked, not fully considering what I might be signing on for.
Even though I did not raise my hand or jump up and down with excitement, I appreciate in hindsight that I had been well prepared for what I think of as a “lay call.” The skills I’d gathered over two decades with a Fortune 50 firm – along with my time serving a faith-based nonprofit – prepared me with patience, leadership practices, listening skills, meeting facilitation ability, and strong faith. My faith was tested, but my faith also made it abundantly clear that I had been placed at ULS for “such a time as this.”
Sometimes grace unexpectedly finds us, and in those thin places where doubt once crept we discover anew the fullness of God’s providence.
The term “lay call” is likely incorrect, implying that I was listening for that still, small voice, heard it, and responded. But I’ll use it because although I was often frightened and regularly felt ill-equipped, I’d also never felt more confident that God was by my side and had placed me there, along with other board members, students, faculty, staff, alumni, donors, and volunteers. Despite having very different points of view, we all had in common a commitment to Lutheran theological education now and for the future.
Many people have answered a “true call,” and I am so very grateful for that and the difference they’re making in a world that so desperately needs faith-filled leadership. But for people like me who respond to a call you didn’t even clearly hear, in a place where you know what you don’t know, I’m encouraged to say that, like me, God has equipped you with everything you need. You can meet the challenges you are called to address, and you might even find yourself eternally grateful for what you gain along the way.