Reverend Jim Flowers with All Saints Episcopal Church in Mobile talks about how he was drawn away from his original career path into the ministry. Here’s a look at our conversation:
Chad: People have different paths to ministry. Some go into seminary right out of school, others take a different route–what were you doing before you got into the pulpit?
Guest: I majored in English in college… and I wanted to teach English upon graduation, but my Dad invited me to join the family business, which was an independent property and casualty insurance agency. I worked in the agency for eight years before my father died; and then fourteen more until I finally lost my mind and went to seminary.
Chad: What changed in your life that made you say “I need to leave this career” that was relatively stable to something that was likely a bit more uncertain?
Guest: There never was a singular moment when I was brought to a decision. A part of me always felt I would end up as a priest of the church. For me it was a maturing process; being honed by the struggles and joys of life’s journey until the time was ripe for what I now know is my true calling. And uncertainty is a good word… but life is uncertain. I suppose I matured to the point that uncertainty was less daunting, and more of a beguiling challenge.
Chad: Who or what pushed you in that direction?
Guest: Mostly people around me. People saw in me faith, and my ability to articulate it, even though it took me a while to see it for myself. So much of the call to ordained ministry, and lay ministry for that matter depends upon the wisdom of one’s community. The call process is in no way a solitary process; it is a collaborative one.
Chad: How difficult was it to make that kind of career change?
Guest: It was incredibly difficult. I had a viable career in the hometown in which my wife and I grew up. We had a lot of close friends. Katharine and I had to think about the financial ramifications of my decision; as well as a change of lifestyle. We had three teenage children, and uprooting them in their formative years was a big issue. We argued often. Finally, we decided to seek counseling so that we might have an objective context in which to discuss this decision. Then things began to become more clear for both of us… that this was what we would do. I’ll never forget driving out of my mother’s driveway, my college-age son, and my son who was a senior in high school, standing there beside my mother waving goodbye as Katharine and Katie and I left Dothan, Alabama for Texas. It was wrenching and costly, but it was right.
Chad: How can people in their own lives know whether or not they are on the best path, career or otherwise, for them?
Guest: Prayer is the short, safe answer… and by prayer, I mean “the art of paying attention.” The eastern religions use the word mindfulness. It takes persistence and practice to be attuned to one’s heart’s desire. So prayer means paying rapt attention to what’s inside of you, and paying rapt attention to the ones around you, and the ones who love you. And mostly, prayer is about being honest, really honest… and that takes courage.
Chad: what has been your favorite part about choosing a church career?
Guest: The best part of ordained ministry for me is preaching and teaching. I love to read and write. I love intelligent conversation. Also, I am privileged to stand with people at turning points in their lives. That’s what sacraments are: they are rites that name as holy the transitional moments, the crisis points in the human life cycle… like Baptism, and marriage, and healing, and death. It is also a privilege to celebrate the Eucharist from Sunday to Sunday; which is a way of remembering that we are nurtured in the life of God.. and sent out into the world to be nurture for others.