Called to Public Service
So, by now you may have heard that I took on another position in the community as a commissioner on the Human Relations (Rights) Commission for the County of Santa Clara, and you may be asking yourself, why would he do this? Well, it goes to my deep understanding of how we follow what God is calling us to do.
To be honest, up until a few weeks ago I knew nothing about the Human Relations Commission (HRC), nor did I really have a desire to get involved in politics. But, being called to something is a funny thing. The call is different for everyone. Sometimes it is big and at other times it is small. But when you are called to something it beckons you. Usually it is not something you really WANT to do, rather it is a sense that it is something that would make you less if you did not do.
This is why in our tradition for clergy, we place a big emphasis on the call coming from outside, often those calls confirm the stirrings that are already in your heart, but just as often they are calls that you could not see in yourself, but others bring them to your attention and you just cannot shirk them away. For us, a call is like our understanding of sacraments, as an outward sign of what God is already doing in your heart.
One of the first things I would always tell new interns or candidates for ministry when I was active with that group was that “Ordination is a consequence NOT a goal.” The purpose of the statement was to make it known to the individual that it was not about them getting ordained, what I was really concerned with, was the call and the way in which they were serving God. It proved to be a good model as the interns that followed that lesson were able to listen to the call and become exceptional in their fields. And the ones that didn’t, well didn’t.
When I take on new things I often ask why I am called to do this and I put a lot of weight on what others think. It was interesting when I was called here because on paper I would not have taken the position, but in studying the church and community I felt as if I needed to be here. That is the reality of calls they ultimately do not belong to the individual, they belong to God. I would also go as far as saying that the call is vital only if it is connected in a way where God is working both inside and outside of us.
For this calling to the HRC, when I was approached my initial reaction was to say no. Heck, I was on vacation, still recovering from the parade and I had never heard of this group before. Moreover, this was yet another civic thing, not parochial. Luckily, I was on vacation and not really going to make any decisions but when I got home I began to ask if this would be a role where I could live out my calling. As I read the description of the commission I was amazed at how closely it aligned with both my personal statement and my statement of faith. While it is not a Christian endeavor, it is a very real calling to help create policies of welcome and tolerance to this community at large and that is ultimately one of our callings as Christians - to create a world that celebrates all of God’s children in the fullness of who they are!
I am sure you will hear more about my time on this commission and maybe even get involved in helping our community be a place of welcome and acceptance, just as we try to do within our congregation.
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Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen