Ordination Under Special Circumstances
The Rev. Bobby Syner
Pastor, Desert Springs Lutheran Church (Truth or Consequences, NM)
At the heart of Ordination Under Special Circumstances (OUSC) is the unique special circumstance surrounding the congregation, the ministry, and the person seeking to serve either or both of those entities. To think of OUSC as a program or curriculum designed to provide a streamlined path to ordination for an isolated individual, is to miss the underlying goals that support the vision. A quick scan over the landscape of our denomination reveals numerous congregations and ministries that are shrinking, perhaps even struggling, but still have members who need to be served and communities that need to experience the love of Christ at work.
I might never have expected it, but events began to unfold later in my life that put me in the crosshairs of a special circumstance. My life’s experience, my background, and my walk of faith together prepared me to help. By the time 2020 rolled around, I found myself widowed, an empty nester, and, because of COVID-19, looking at early retirement. As I thought about what might be next, I sensed the Lord saying that He still had work for me. Was this God nudging me to look at the possibility of entering the ministry? I wasn’t sure. A friend suggested that I reach out to Pastor David Wendel and find out what programs might be available through the North American Lutheran Church. Pastor Wendel told me about a plan the NALC was then putting together designed to prepare candidates for ordination in specific ministries which a traditional path to ordination could not fill in a reasonable amount of time or at a salary the congregation could afford.
Such was my case, and such was the special circumstance for Desert Springs Lutheran Church in city of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. Desert Springs was a small ELCA congregation, which had been served for eleven years by Father Peter Cacoperdo, a retired Episcopal Priest who had signed on in 2011 as the temporary, interim pastor. The timing, for me, seemed exactly right! It appeared that I was in just the right place, with the right background, to step in and give Father Cacoperdo well-deserved relief from his temporary duties. OUSC provided a path, the tools, and the timing, for someone like me to be in a position to serve a congregation like Desert Springs. It also allowed the congregation to transition from the ELCA to the NALC, thus facilitating the building of a new ministry while, at the same time, allowing an existing one to continue.
Ordination Under Special Circumstances (OUSC) is for NALC congregations in need of a pastor but have special circumstances. The OUSC Diploma from the NALS Seminary Center at Trinity School for Ministry is designed for students in OUSC with the North American Lutheran Church (NALC). Congregations and applicants interested in OUSC must first be recommended by the OUSC Committee prior to applying to the NALS.