Of ordination and spaghetti sauce

By Ann Fontaine

How do you know when God calls? There is no caller i.d. from AT&T – Angelic Telephone and Telegraph? How do you know if it is God or Ego. For the first part of my life I did not think about becoming a priest, as it was not a possibility for women. To me it was like wanting to become a professional football player – something I actually considered until it became clear that I was only going to be 100 pounds and 5’5” – among other disqualifying attributes.

After I returned to the church from my non-believer phase, I became more and more active as a layperson. I was happy teaching Sunday School, organizing programs, directing church camp, and serving on various local and national church committees and councils. I was sent to Tanzania and Mexico and Guatemala and all over the U.S. by the church. I felt that I was making a contribution to the life of the church and was I enjoying myself. I had a lay preaching license and served on the worship planning team.

In 1974, women began to be ordained. It was not on my radar as something for me but people would occasionally ask me if I was going to become a “minister” – meaning ordained. I said – not me – I am a minister and contented with my life. The idea began to pop up in my mind. I would say to the idea – “no thanks – I’m happy being a member of the laity.” This idea became more insistent, however, we had three school age children and my husband had a busy medical practice – it would be too inconvenient for all of us.

This recurring thought about ordination appeared off and on for years. Finally, I said, “Fine, if you (whoever “you” are) want me to do this, I want to hear if from Jim (my husband) and I am not telling him.”

I was certain that would never happen so I completely forgot about it.

Two weeks later, Jim was making spaghetti sauce. This a production number at our house, involving his homegrown tomatoes, onions, herbs, etc. He puts on an Italian opera with a tenor, preferably Bjorling or Gigli. Suddenly he looks up from stirring the aromatic sauce and says, “We have to talk.” Startled I say, “Okay.” Putting the sauce on to simmer, we go for a walk in the Wyoming afternoon. He says, “It just came to me – you better go to seminary and you better go soon or you will be dead before you get ordained.” I was stunned.

So the next year I left him at home with our teenage son – the other kids had gone off to college by now – and went to seminary. I still don’t know if it was God or Ego but here I am ordained and loving it.

People ask – how do you know if it is God? I really don’t know, even with this experience. I think the truth is God does not really care about our choices in ministry but about our faithfulness and the outcome of our choices. Regardless of the path one chooses the results show whether the choice is of God or not.

But I do believe God loves opera and the incense of food made for family and friends.

The Rev. Ann Fontaine, Diocese of Wyoming, keeps the blogs Green Lent and what the tide brings in. She is the author of Streams of Mercy: a meditative commentary on the Bible.

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