ben-fletcher-story.jpgSeminary is a wild ride. As I come to the end of my first year at Candler, I find it important to pause, take a breath, and reflect on all that I have learned. Between the classes, papers, hospital volunteer shifts, and part-time work, it’s easy to lose track of the molding and shaping that has taken place.

As a second-career student from the private engineering field, it has been both fascinating and challenging to begin my educational journey into theology and ministry. Never before have I found myself so enthralled in the subject matter taught to me within the classroom. From American Church History to Introduction to Preaching, I see God speaking and teaching often. However, I have also made a unique, but yet understandable realization: seminary not only affects one’s brain, but it also affects one’s heart. The insights I have learned in class have affected my own beliefs and outlooks on life. The days of learning without emotional and spiritual side effects are over. Yes, this is challenging, but it is also deeply enriching.

I am currently a certified candidate seeking ordination as Elder in The United Methodist Church. I love the UMC and feel called to see the denomination through its current turmoil; but am I certain of my lifelong vocation? Absolutely not. When I was discerning whether or not to come to seminary in general, my lack of clarity in my specific call to ministry felt disheartening. How could I leave such a stable job and income without more certainty? However, I will never forget the advice of a close mentor during that season: “If you think you know where God will lead you in seminary, you are already wrong.” I took his words to mean that seminary is a time to listen, a time to process, and a time to grow. It is not a time to gain further control or to make God follow a certain plan for your life. In this realization I found the confidence to keep going and the curiosity to see what God might do.

So as year one is coming to an end, I ask myself if I feel any closer to a clear vocation in my life? The answer is both a resounding yes, and a humbling no. Yes, because I have grown so much in my understanding of God, empathy for others, and experience in ministry; but also no, because I know that God still has much more to show me in this season called seminary. But still, in all of this I am abundantly thankful, for through it all I am able to trust God and trust the process. I know that Candler, through its enriching classes and supportive community, has more to teach me. I am confident that I am right where God wants me to be.