by Rev. Leslie Welton
Editors Note: Have you wondered where God is calling LGBTQ+ people within the greater church? This is the final in a four-part series on Proclaim leaders who are doing ministry outside of the parish ministry context.
I have been in my current call for three weeks . . . It feels like three days! A month ago, I was saying tearful goodbyes to a congregation I loved very much and moving half-way across the country to a new role in a synod office. Very different ministries, to say the least.
So the past three weeks have been drinking from the firehose of information!
I also find myself asking questions at the rate of an inquisitive toddler: Who are these congregations? Who are these people? What do they expect of me? Can I really do this work? What if I annoy my colleagues? What if I screw up? Did I make the right choice?
That last question is the one that I find myself camping with a bit, and it’s partly due to my new role around candidacy in this synod. As the Assistant to the Bishop for Faith Formation and Candidacy, I get to walk with folks discerning a call to rostered ministry in this church. My own road of discernment in the beginning was a bumpy one; and, as I get to know these candidates, who are asked to be very vulnerable in the process of discerning a vocation, I am reminded that my call here is to pray for these leaders as they are being formed.
These are the new “congregation members” for whom I am called to pray in my ordination vows, and I love that!
One of my favorite lessons in seminary came from a professor who said we should always ask, “Can I honestly say I’m where God is calling me to be today?” I am mindful that LGBTQ+ folks have a rocky road in candidacy, and we get asked a lot of questions. Questions of identity and call can be frustrating when the church around you can’t see what you and those who know you best can see. I’m thankful that I can be a voice in the process and advocate for candidates on a wider level.
The move from a congregation to a specialized ministry was not an easy decision, but three weeks in I can say it was the right decision. I still feel a bit like Joshua standing at the border of Canaan not knowing what was in store, but I also hear that voice from the cloud assuring, “Do not be afraid, I go before you.” (God did have to tell Joshua that about a dozen times before he got it). I grieve the loss of the relationships in the congregation, the stories I was privileged to share, the rhythm of preaching with a congregation, and learning from one another, and the community. But I see where my passions in ministry are such a fit in this call.
Faith formation is what we are about in the church, and it’s all about asking the questions that bring us closer to the God who loves us so much. For that I am grateful and excited to see what the years ahead hold.
Leslie Welton is happiest with a cup of coffee in one hand, a book in the other and one of her cats on her lap. She is a perpetual student of all the instruments she owns but cannot yet play and nurtures an obsession with miniature anything. She will try any food but bologna and sees the hospitality of her own table as integral to understanding the hospitality offered at Christ’s. The recent move from California to Colorado (to serve as Assistant to the Bishop for Faith Formation and Candidacy, Rocky Mountain Synod) has her excited to explore the mountains but a little bit chilly.