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An enriching journey brings the best out of me

The Rev. Sylvester Ekunwe with Bishop Mark Beckwith at his ordination on June 17, 2017.
The Rev. Sylvester Ekunwe
The Rev. Sylvester Ekunwe with Bishop Mark Beckwith at his ordination on June 17, 2017.

My journey is a story of God’s mercy and fulfillment. Discernment to a call to Holy Orders is not one of those overnight dreams which we can mistake for ”Christian anxieties” to do more in our respective committees or the church. Rather, it is a period of time that involves soul searching, meditation, an open heart and mind, and listening to the Holy Spirit as to where God is pointing us to go. Sometimes, it may not be where we want to go but the Holy Spirit continues to nudge us in that direction.

My discernment years, which span from 2007 to 2012, at some points brought me to a lonely place, but in the midst of that solitude, there was the felt presence of God that brings peace and warmth to my heart. The journey was enriching, meeting people from different walks of life whom I would not have met or otherwise associated with. There were times, I must confess, when I wanted to walk away and live my free life as before, decided on a plan for exit but could not execute it. Looking back now, the reason those decisions could not materialize was because of the insecurity I felt in that decision-making process. The Holy Spirit has a way of doing her work in a most supernatural way, so I go back to that space where I always found peace and warmth for my heart.

It was very endearing to be introduced to the Diocese of Newark Commission on Ministry. A group of committed individuals who are focused on their responsibilities, always available to me whenever I was in need, respected my and my peer’s perspectives and expect deadlines to be met. From that committee, I learned a few things that are not customarily taught in seminaries. For example, withstanding the test of waiting for something you're unsure will ever happen in your lifetime. I find this discipline very valuable in my ministry now as a Vicar of an inner city church in the Diocese of Newark.

At the beginning, one might see the ordination process as a little confusing with all the requirements set out by the commission. What was important for me was not to overwhelm myself with the curves, hills and valleys of the whole process but to focus on a period within the process whether it was the Postulant Conference, Candidate status or internship period. In any of the steps and stages, the commission is blessed with lots of experienced people in the diocese who have been members of the Anglican/Episcopal Church for most of their lives and know how to respond to your needs with love. The support that you get is best described as like that from an older sister or brother within your family. In addition, Bishop Mark Beckwith was always ready to listen whenever you reached out to him either through a scheduled series of Ember letters or just making an appointment for a face-to-face conversation. The experience could have not been more transparent and rooted on trust.

In the end, it all came together, from the moment I attended the Nomination Conference to when I got ordained. The people you meet along the way throughout the journey will always be treasured in your heart because from each of them you learn a lesson or two, that was not only enriching but a teaching moment that will later in your ministry be very valuable. Today, I see myself a priest and also a servant to the community in which God has placed me. It is now, for me, a lifetime of discernment as to where God wants to take my ministry. The same discipline I cultivated at the beginning still applies now as I continue my inner soul searching, meditations, open heart and mind, and listening to the Holy Spirit for what is next.

I will conclude with this. If you feel called, talk to your Rector or whoever your spiritual leader may be. There is no need to continue to put it off or be afraid what the outcome may be, the Holy Spirit guides you every step of the way and there are competent women and men of God who have dedicated their time and talent to support you. It is a ministry of service and the rewards are enriching and bring an inner peace that can hardly be explained with words.

This series is designed to encourage others to be open to a similar call, and, to some small extent, demystify the ordination process. If you think you might be called to ordained ministry, or are interested in what is involved, please visit the Commission on Ministry page.