It was late summer, 1986. My husband and I were getting ready to graduate from seminary, and the job hunt had begun. With the optimism of youth, we wondered how we would decide which church we should go to—as though churches would be lining up to hire a pair of green seminarians. Naive or not, we sincerely desired to know God's will.
My husband felt called to ministry in northern New England, but that was as far as the leading went. Assuming that a choice would be involved, we prayed for discernment in how we would recognize God's will when the time came. We both arrived at the same "scientific" conclusion: We would go to the first church that called us. We didn't want to get in the position of comparing financial packages, parsonages, congregations, or communities as some of our peers seemed to be doing. So we made a pact between ourselves and God—we would go to the first church that called.
An invitation came for an interview with a small country church in New Hampshire. The church's pastoral search committee invited us for a meal in a member's home with the interview to follow. And since we lived a couple of hours away, they offered to put us up for the night. We arrived on a beautiful August afternoon, and were treated to a delicious home-cooked pot roast dinner. There was fresh corn on the cob straight from the host's garden, and hot apple pie right out of the oven. The committee was a warm, friendly group of people—small but with a healthy mix of ages. The interview seemed to go well. We enjoyed the fellowship that evening and the spiritual depth of the conversation around the room, and we began to picture ourselves fitting right in with this sweet rural congregation.
We enjoyed a good night's sleep under a handmade quilt in a corner room of the old farmhouse, and were greeted the next morning with a delicious country breakfast. Our congenial host gave us an auto tour of the area that culminated with a look at the church and its rustic old parsonage that was definitely in need of some serious repair. We knew the pay wouldn't be much, but we could certainly see ourselves raising a family in this lovely country setting.
We drove back to seminary aglow with what was beginning to feel like a call to this struggling little congregation.
A couple of weeks passed and another search committee called asking for an interview. Since no formal call had been extended yet by the first church, we knew we at least needed to be open. My husband's initial contact with the chair of the committee was rather brusque. The committee would be meeting at the church at 7:00PM on Friday, he would see us then. Since the church was 2 or 3 hours away, we made our own reservations at a local motel. On the appointed day we made the drive after a long day of classes and work, grabbed a quick bite at a fast food restaurant on the way, and located the church building near the center of town. The meeting was in the church's cold basement, and only the necessary end of the room was lit—presumably to save on electricity. A few Styrofoam cups of instant coffee were foraged from the church kitchen and served with a Bundt cake brought by one of the members.
The interview didn't feel good at all. They made it clear they were looking to hire a man, and although my husband was the pastoral candidate, we didn't hide the fact that I had a seminary degree as well. After a fairly brief, somewhat cool interview, they brought us to have a quick look at the parsonage—a big house on a postage stamp lot with the front door opening right onto the sidewalk. I can remember thinking "Where do the children play here—in the street?"