It finally came! All I knew about our vicarage assignment was that it would be somewhere in the United States, since we did not grant permission to leave the country. (Note: vicarage is when a seminary graduate student is assigned to a church for one year to basically work as an assistant pastor. Then we return to the seminary for one more year of classes before being given a Call, or a placement with a church as a career.)
My husband’s parents and his younger brother came down from Michigan, and my parents did too. Frank’s parents met us at our apartment, then we drove to the seminary to find seats and meet my parents. I sat in the pew, and it felt like forever before my parents finally arrived, but they were actually early. I was too jittery, so I got out my journal and started writing. It was so strange to be faced with such a big change, have no control over it, and not be allowed to sit with my husband – the one person going through this change with me. (He had to sit with his classmates in alphabetical order.)
Finally, the church service started. The cross was carried down the aisle. All the pastors/professors wore white robes. (I grew up in a contemporary LCMS church, so white robes were rare.) I’m not a stranger to traditional worship style, but I am a bit less comfortable with it. This service, however, was done beautifully. The Kantorei (can-tor-eye), which is the men’s choir, sang beautiful chorals with breathtaking harmony. It really helped to calm me down and assure me that although I would be put in a new situation, it would be a part of God’s plan for me, and His plan is beautiful.
Then came the sermon. I got out my journal again, because I’ve heard countless seminary wives say they wished they could remember what happened during their placement service. Things that stuck out to me:
We’re going on a journey, and it’s scary. We kind of like the Ninja Turtles, jumping and yelling, “Cowabunga!” This is because God chose us, and Jesus said those who serve Him are called His “friends.” What we’re about to do isn’t easy, and Satan isn’t happy about us taking on this challenge. Satan would love to see us cave in under the pressure, destroy our marriages. We are in the midst of spiritual warfare, but Jesus already won the war. He is victorious, so we can live victoriously.
We were also instructed to not live to work. Vicarage will be hard work, but we also need to have fun. Use the opportunity to go places you’ve never gone before.
Lastly, we were reminded that God comes first, but our families come second, even before church. Don’t sacrifice your family for your congregation.
Finally, it was time to announce placements. Suddenly, I realized that I had been wrong when I said that I wouldn’t mind being placed anywhere in the country. Suddenly, I was so, very, very stressed that we would be told we were moving to the west coast (which seems so far away since I’ve never been farther than mid-Kansas!). I started praying, God, You know what I can and can’t handle, and I simply can’t handle moving more than a few states away! I just can’t! You’ve got to know this about me! Please don’t give me what I can’t handle. I was suddenly like a little kid begging not to go to the dentist.
Halfway through, it was my husband’s turn. They called his name, he walked up. They said the church name (went in one ear and out the other), said the district (one ear and out the other), the city (one ear and out the other), and finally, they said “Illinois.”
My immediate thoughts: Illinois? Only one state over?! I can do moving to the next state over! Wait. What was the city? Shoot! I didn’t hear the city! Where in Illinois! That’s a loooong state. Are we north or south? East or west? But oh my gosh! Only Illinois! Not Nebraska! Not California! I can do this! GOD HEARD MY PRAYER! HE KNOWS ME! I collapsed into tears on my mom’s shoulder, laughing and crying at the same time because of the immense relief. I had been shaking like someone with palsy for 3 days, and the shakes finally left me.
The service concluded with a hymn, and the seminarians (soon-to-be-vicars) were ushered out of the chapel. Frank passed right by me, and it felt so unnatural not to hold his hand or give him a hug. At the end of the hymn, there was a flood of people. Some exited the church, others stood around talking. I felt like screaming, “Get out of my way! I need to talk to my husband! You know, the guy I am moving to a new state with!? LET ME OUT.”
I finally raced out of the church, but so many people got out ahead of me, there was only a sea of suits and sun dresses. I stood on top of one of the fountains before I finally spotted Frank talking to his younger brother. I ran up to Frank, tackled him in a hug, and shouted, “ILLINOIS!” He gave out a whoop, and then I asked, “Where?! Where in Illinois!?” We looked on a map on Frank’s phone. It’s right on the Illinois/Iowa border. I got excited. I’ve never been to Iowa. My cousin and Frank’s brother and sister-in-law all live in Chicago, so we’d still be close to family.
I stepped aside to call my closest friends. Just as I got a hold of my best friend (friends since 7th grade, she lives in Texas), my mother-in-law (MIL) came up to me and said, “The pastor is here! You might want to get off the phone!”
What pastor? The pastor from our vicarage church? That church is an 8 hour drive away. What pastor?
I told Heather I needed to hang up, and I went back over to Frank. It was true… the pastor from our vicarage church had driven all the way to Fort Wayne to meet us. I felt so honored that he felt it was that important. I felt so relieved that we would know him right away instead of waiting a few months, wondering what he would be like. I also felt so unprepared!
Turns out his wife was also with him. They have a daughter about our age. There is a handbell choir at their church, so maybe I could play a little with them. The church has had many vicars (over 20, I think) so the precedence has already been set (HUGE relief). The church is small, only 200 or so members, but very stable. After our 3 year field work experience at a very unstable church, we really look forward to having a stable church. The church also uses the LSB (Lutheran Service Book) in a traditional service. Not what I am used to, but after the doctrinal issues I’ve had in a contemporary church, the LSB will be a breath of fresh air. The pastor really seemed like a great advisor, and his wife seemed so wise and motherly. I think we will learn so much but not be taken advantage of.
After spending quite some time talking and taking pictures, we took pictures with some signs I had previously made. I made one sign that said, “Our One-Year Vicarage Is In…” and then on the next sign after the service, my mom wrote the month we move (August) and the city and state since I was busy meeting the pastor.
We finally returned home to my apartment for snacks and beers to celebrate. We made our official Facebook announcements and posted the photos. I already had tons of comments from friends and family who had watched the ceremony live on the seminary’s website. (I was pleased that no one announced the city and state until after I did, though.) I even had a message and friend request on FB from the current vicar’s wife who is at our future church now. She sent me photos of the house we will live in for the next year and said she’d love to answer the many questions I must have.
I just had this overwhelming sense of love from so many people, and I had this incredible feeling that God had all this planned. Pretty sure He was up there, laughing and saying, “See? What did you have to worry about? I’ve got your back.”
The house is like a little old farmhouse. It’s got wood floors and three bedrooms, plus a basement. We’ll have a yard and a garage. I haven’t lived in anything other than a dorm and an apartment in 8 years. I can’t imagine how lovely it will be to live in a house. The BEST thing about this house is that Kitty can come with us! The second best thing is that there is a screened-in porch, where I plan to do a lot of reading and writing.
So yup… I’m excited. Can August 1st please come now!?