St. Luke’s former seminarians reflect – Francisco Herrera

Me and St. Luke’s.

by Francisco Herrera

When I moved to Chicago in the dead of winter in 2005 to start the whole ordination-process-thing I was virtually clueless. I knew almost nothing about church, the ELCA didn’t know anything about me, and sometimes we even brought the worst out of each other. I persisted, though – repenting and growing along the way, benefiting from intensive therapy, my professors at Chicago Theological Seminary, CPE, a sympathetic Candidacy Committee, and a very devoted and loving wife (Thanks, Sanja).  But I’d screwed-up a lot – angering and hurting people in my first attempts at Christian leadership, and despite my progress, many church peeps were still quite reluctant to welcome me in again.

Then I came to do my MIC at St. Luke’s (September 2011 – May 2012).

While there I was afforded a genuinely ‘clean slate’ – my past mistakes treated more as a beginning than an ending. Generous and patient, the community willingly and lovingly accepted and challenged me, and even my inevitable slip-ups served only to deepen the relationship between us rather than compromise it. St. Luke’s sainted souls bathed me in a respect and affirmation that I had desperately needed and filled me with a deep, stabilizing joy – like that time when, after asking Pastor Erik for thoughts as I finalized a mid-week worship service and, shaking his head, he warmly assured me:

“No Francisco. I’ll leave it all to your very capable hands, and we’ll see each other on Wednesday.”

 

I cried off-and-on for the rest of that afternoon, relishing in his blessing and realizing that maybe – just maybe – I really COULD be a pastor.

Sadly though, at some point my bishop received a new complaint about me and boundaries (long the synod’s chief concern) and my process was abruptly rescinded. He told me I could eventually re-apply but I knew that I wouldn’t. After having seen too many others in my same position spend years sacrificing their agency and peace-of-mind to the idol of ordination, I wasn’t about to do the same. So I left Candidacy for good. But though shaken and unsure, the Lord wouldn’t be long in revealing my next steps, even planting a hint of it in a parishioner’s side-comment during my very last day at St. Luke’s, a bit more than three months before I got the bad news.

“I know you’re studying to be a minister,” said this loving grey-beard, “but I really see you more as a professor. I know you’ll make a good pastor, though.”

Funny how the Spirit works that way, ya’ know?

So after a year off, I switched my degree program at LSTC from MATS to PhD and began jamming to my current beat in August of 2013. Since then I have had many many blessings – traveling, writing, working for #decolonizeLutheranism, loudly proclaiming the hard truths about church that others can’t (post-Candidacy, Pastor Erik recommended that I “enjoy the fact that [I was] no longer being supervised.” GREAT advice. Thanks, Erik!). But suffice it to say, my séjour with St. Luke’s is holy to me – not just as the place where I first ‘practiced’ being a pastor, but as a community which gave me full openness and full trust and full blessing – fully acknowledging my gifts to ministry, and fortifying my soul in ways that have sustained me through many a danger, toil, and snare.

And I always feel a little rush of delight whenever I learn that a seminarian I know is going to be working with y’all. You’re pretty great at what you do, so please. Keep doing it.

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Comments (1)

  1. Carla Rush

    Reply

    Thank you for sharing your story Franciso. I am so glad you had a delightful year of MIC ministry with St. Luke’s. One does deserve a time of feeling their call affirmed by others when those in charge are challenging and pushing back against that very call. I’m sorry you have had to experience so many challenges in the church but as you have worked with #decolonizeLutheranism I know you have met so many others who have also experienced similar or worse challenges than yours from the church heads while “trusting the system and spirit.” I can say this as a cradle Lutheran who even though my synod and bishop did not know me well when I felt the call to ministry my local pastors did as well as the bishop’s assistance and I still faced challenges that I feel were unnecessary and unproductive to my call process not to mention demoralizing. Especially when those in charge failed to follow through on promises and yet my time was ticking away without opportunities or possibilities. Two and a half years post seminary graduation I finally received my first call but only after requesting reassignment. My bishop had counseled me not to request reassignment because it would look bad on me?? Yet he was not helping me and the synod was not providing opportunities to interview. It seems rather appropriate that the bishop was out of the country when it was time to submit my reassignment paperwork and I had to coach the assistant through the process. Again, thank you for sharing your story so openly. Blessings on your journey. I’m so glad we meet, even so briefly at the East Central Conference Gathering in Illinois in March because of Maggie & Nikoli’s invite. Pastor Carla Rush

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