Candidacy and Fatherhood (2 of 2)

Photo Thanks to Leeroy

Photo Thanks to Leeroy

I messaged Dawn after the initial interview. Then we talked. She was feeling fine and was headed to a planned prenatal appointment. I breathed as if for the first time.

We spoke about the interview but I couldn’t put more language out of my mouth. I had talked for more than hour and didn’t have the energy to rehearse much about it. An hour later she texted that she was having contractions. She was calling the midwife she had seen earlier. I was waiting for the report to come back at that time, waiting to hear if I passed.

After I passed and told her, we strategized and, for my part, to quell my fears. Then I got in the car to return home. I called her an hour later and couldn’t get her. I called back and she said she was going to the hospital which was 2 blocks away from her job. I was still fine, I was speeding by then in Wisconsin where they love out of state plates. Still, the hospital is there for that reason.

I had already told my coworkers that I might need them to intercept her and wheel her down the street. I had already asked Uncle David to be on notice in case I needed him. I actually introduced Dawn to hospital security for this very reason. I was going to have some notice, though, in my original vision. Dawn decided to pass by all that; she walked alone. Both of us, in two different places, getting ready for what was next.

I called her later and she was in the middle of a contraction and couldn’t speak. I drove faster, feeling an opening of possibility that I couldn’t be with her for the labor. She texted from triage. I was still too far. I called her mother and asked her to get to the hospital. Traffic stopped just outside of O’Hare. Literally stopped. Still, I end up beating my mother-in-law there.

That morning I had gone around, deliberating and then exhibiting how I am when the unplanned happens. That was a feature of my committee appearance. I talked about how nothing in pastoral practice is truly known ahead of time. I remember thinking about a practice of faith. True pastoral ministry is usually unpredictable. That truth was actually happening that morning and it was happening as Dawn walked to the hospital and while I sped to meet her.

I arrived at 4:50PM. I smelled of sweat from the whole day of meeting and waiting and driving and hoping. As soon as I walked in, Dawn says, she felt an intense contraction. She said that our baby knew it was safe to come. I looked at the clock and got to her side as she called to me.

She was laboring and had been. The posture felt familiar but it was different than with Bryce. It was bright outside this time, daytime. With Bryce I was there from the early signs and throughout. Labor started at night. I remember everything going very slowly. This time things moved swiftly, intensely.

Dawn held my hand, and I remember thinking that breaking all those laws to get back was redeemed in that moment. Especially if I would make it out of there with my hand bones intact. Our second son, Brooks, came at 5:37PM, and as you can imagine we were thrilled. It was the predominant feeling in the room.

I wasn’t thinking about the day when he came. Of course, being a part of a quick laboring process doesn’t afford you the space to reflect. That’s why I’m writing this now. Holding those two “moments” of preparing for and getting through candidacy, on the one hand, and returning to Dawn and being a part of the welcoming committee for our son, on the other.

They sit near each other as mirrors in a way. Two events full of potential and promise. Two events full of fear and hope. Two events with people who are involved to bring someone new forward. Two events that are, in different ways, destabilizing, constructive, constitutive, and reforming.

Candidacy and fatherhood are words that belong together. Of course, they speak to each other’s tentativeness and humility. They return to the other the truths of vulnerability and preparation and work and tirelessness and tiredness. They sit intently together, those words, like two brothers enjoying each other’s company.

Candidacy and Fatherhood (1 of 2)

Photo Thanks to Benjamin Child

Photo Thanks to Benjamin Child

The morning of April 1st I woke up at 3:30. It was one of those moments like years ago when, as a seminarian and pastor, I got out of bed at 2:30 and knew I wouldn’t return to sleep.

So, like back then, I got up and got ready for the day. Before I actually went to the church. It was a payroll week and I started going through the file and reviewing some other accounting material.

This time, I had planned to wake by 4:30 because of the drive to a Wisconsin meeting. I was scheduled for a 9am committee appearance to discuss my application to become an ACPE Supervisory Candidate.

A second step in the supervisory education process–the first being readiness–candidacy is the designation that students have after exhibiting in written materials and during an in-person consultation that you 1) are a clinically competent spiritual caregiver and 2) that you are increasingly ready to take on the potential of supervisory practice.

After a successful appearance, candidates are able to provide supervision of students, under supervision of your training supervisor, but without that supervisor being in the room.

It had been planned for a while. I had submitted my materials to my presenter, the person who would introduce me formally to the committee through a written report, and to the committee itself. Each gets a different set of materials about a month before the committee appearance.

We had known that my appointment was a week prior to the due date that we expected our second son to be born. All along I told him that he could come at any point after 5pm on Friday. “Preferably Sunday,” I told him, “but after time after 5pm Friday is fine.”

That morning I got up, checked on Dawn as the plan called for, and she gave me the “I’m not in labor” sign. I left the house at 4:15, drove to Wisconsin, and watched the sun rise shortly after crossing the state line. I spoke to my supervisor as I drove up to the site a touch more than an hour before my meeting.

We talked about the presenter’s report. He spoke to my anxieties and clarified ways to think about one of the five main questions the presenter suggested as conversation starters. The plan was for me to sleep for a spell before things started.

Photo Thanks to Sam Solomon

Photo Thanks to Sam Solomon

The interview lasted for one hour and fifteen minutes. By custom, the committee started with the basic wrangling over the facts in the report, got my corrections, and began to discuss my materials. Then they asked me where I wanted to go with things. That’s a rough summary. Each was its own series of exchanges.

For the entire time, I was working, going back and forth, following five people’s logical questions about my practice of pastoral care, my self-understanding, my ways of grieving, my pastoral identity, and my ways of relating to God. It was thrilling and unsettling and opening and revitalizing. It was an open invitation to explore what I’d do with students in clinical pastoral education.

With my training supervisor silent behind me, I disclosed things about myself and my history. I laughed with them. I felt tears in my eyes. I thought about my relationship with God and how it’s changed. I went around and around as people added questions to previous questions. I clarified and felt stuck and re-worked and paused. We listened to each other, but mostly those folks worked me over in order to gauge my competence as a pastor.

It was a presentation of myself in a room of pastoral educators, and it felt like a room full of being heard, understood, and accepted. I wasn’t defensive but free. I remember liking that feeling and wanting to pass it on to the other arenas in my life. I remember thinking that being in this process so far has given me the desire to be free.

The purpose of the committee was to exhibit pastoral competency. I did that. I thanked them. I was grateful and tired. I hadn’t slept those minutes beforehand because I saw people and talked.

I passed. They brought me back after almost an hour of discussion where they prepared their official findings. They read the committee action report to me, answered questions as I raised them, and congratulated me. They also consulted with my supervisor for forty-five minutes without me being in the room. That process is in place for anyone meeting candidacy committee. Four of my colleagues went through the same process that day. We all passed.