God willing, by the time you read this, I will be an ordained minister in the UCC. Those who have been on this journey with me will agree that I resisted this call for many years. I believed then, and still do, that the ministry of the laity is essential for a thriving church. Having said that, one would question why I decided to enter seminary and seek ordination.
Having grown up in Roman Catholic Church, I accepted Catholic teachings and continue to appreciate many of the rituals that shaped my faith life. However, as I grew older, I began to question the gender restrictions regarding ordained ministry. I was not involved in the church as a Catholic laywoman for many reasons but primarily because I disagreed with so many of the church's policies.
It was not until I took a leap of faith, left the Catholic Church and joined the UCC that I began to discover that the priesthood was for all believers. I joined the UCC 23 years ago because I discovered that — as a laywoman — I could be involved and offer my gifts to the church regardless of my ecclesiastical standing. I have served this church as a laywoman for over 20 years. I believe it is a highly respected and deeply appreciated role in most settings of the church.
But, after more than two decades of committed and faithful service to the church as a laywoman, I could no longer ignore God's call to ordained ministry. While I still highly respect and believe in the priesthood of all believers, I realized that it was irresponsible of me to ignore my calling. God has blessed me with gifts that I must explore and share. I entered seminary at the Northwest House of Theological Studies in Salem, Ore., in the fall of 2001, transferred to and graduated from UCC-related Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, Calif., in May 2005.
The process of spiritual liberation has been a challenging one, but very healing. Although, what I've discovered is that laypersons do not have the same set of restrictions or expectations as ordained persons. For one thing, they are far more able to freely express theological opinions and perspectives with a lower risk of institutional rejection. Regardless, I am now even more convinced that I am called to be a member and minister of the UCC.
I continue to be grateful for our efforts to be the beloved community that is in love with God and all of God's creation — making it real through its prophetic witness. Generally, the UCC demonstrates a spirit of re-creation and re-formation evidenced in our willingness to be in the community and respond theologically to the context and culture of our times.
It will be a privilege and honor to serve as an ordained minister in this beloved church.
The Rev. Linda Jaramillo — the first Hispanic to serve as a member of the UCC's five-person Collegium of Officers — began a four-year term as executive minister of Justice and Witness Ministries on Oct. 1. She was ordained to Christian ministry in the UCC on Nov. 13 during the closing worship service at a racial justice convocation in Portland, Ore., honoring the retirement of the Rev. Héctor E. López.