by Krista Showalter Ehst, Alpha Mennonite Church
My calling into ministry did not come in a crystal-clear “Aha!” moment.
I have friends and former seminary classmates who knew they were going to be a minister since the age of 12, or who experienced a distinct “burning bush” calling from God. I, on the other hand, grew up wanting—at different points but with equal fervor—to be a veterinarian, author, and Broadway star.
I am none of those things today, and looking back, what stands out from those varied aspirations is an underlying but consistent curiosity about the Bible and faith and a deep connection to the life of the church.
I grew up at Perkasie Mennonite and was blessed with the examples of strong women pastors and with the affirmations of a warm church community. From a young age, I was encouraged to use my gifts in church and was also encouraged to bring my questions and uncertainties to the table. I have heard many stories of people who have been deeply wounded by church, and I am grateful that I was raised in such a safe, nurturing, and affirming community.
I received some encouragement from my church community and from high school teachers to consider ministry, but at the time it didn’t seem a very attractive option. While studying at Goshen College, however, that consistent curiosity that followed me throughout childhood led me into Bible and theology classes. I was so energized by studying Scripture and by learning about different theological perspectives. I recognized that what fed me the most was not my theater or music theory classes, but was engaging these questions of faith and of the church.
I spent a summer during college as an intern in a small Mennonite church in Florida, and recognized that not only am I energized by questions of faith, but that many of my gifts are well suited to ministry. I slowly began to open myself to the idea of pastoral ministry, although it still seemed like a far-off possibility.
After college, I spent about six months in the United Kingdom working with the Anabaptist Network, on behalf of Franconia Conference. It was there, while taking part in a small, urban house church, that I decided to take the next step and apply to seminary, and my husband and I ended up in Atlanta for three years while I studied at Candler School of Theology. It was a wonderful place to gain both head and on-the-ground knowledge, and also a good place to integrate my passions for church ministry and sustainability.
Even while in seminary, however, I didn’t really think I’d be a pastor any time soon. I felt too young, too inexperienced. And yet here I am, not yet 30 and serving as a pastor of a small Mennonite congregation while also farming alongside my husband. The call is not what I thought it would be, and I imagine it will continue to take surprising and unexpected shapes as I continue on the road.