by Roving Reporter Marcia M.
This month I got the opportunity to chat with Pastor Christopher Carter, PhD. Before we got together, I went online to try to understand exactly what Pastor Christopher’s role is within our church. He is our “Sojourning Pastor” and he is an assistant professor of theology at the University of San Diego (USD). For those of you who are confused as I was, I recommend going to our website and the USD website for a description of both of his jobs.
One of my confusions was his job title, Sojourning Pastor. I went online to figure out what is meant by sojourning pastor. I found several uses of the word sojourn to see if I could apply them to Pastor Christopher. Here are just a few of the uses for sojourn:
- Sojourn (comics), a CrossGen comic book series
- Sojourn (journal), an interdisciplinary journal devoted to the study of social and cultural issues in Southeast Asia
- Sojourn (online game), a MUD (text-based online role-playing game)
None of these seem to apply to him. According to the dictionary, sojourn means a temporary stay. I found out Pastor Bob gave Pastor Christopher the title of sojourning pastor, because he is temporarily assigned to our church while he continues his work at USD. His teaching and research at USD focuses on Christian social ethics, while he conferences for our church, focusing on regular worship leadership, preaching, teaching, community engagement, pastoral care, and other ministry areas.
He told me he chose PB UMC as his conference church because of Pastor Bob. I asked him how he knew Pastor Bob. “Bob and I went to seminary together (Bob started 1 to 2 years after I did). Before he moved to Nebraska, his boys were babies who played behind my house. I got to pick a church to conference with because I am a provisional elder. Usually provisional elders are assigned a church to conference, but because I am in an extension ministry (school), I got to choose which one. It is volunteer work. I don’t get paid, but it is something I want to do. ”
What made you decide to become a pastor? “I had some of the same doubts Bob did when I realized I wanted to be a pastor. I was a youth group leader and getting my bachelor’s degree. Even as a young child I had a love for church and a love for learning about theology (as well as God). But, I was scared when I felt the call to be a pastor. I was afraid of how it might affect my marriage.” He was studying sports medicine when it hit him this was his intended direction. “When I told my wife, she asked me if I was sure, suggesting I think about getting some counsel from other clergy. I told her, ‘No, God really has called me.’ But then, even I was surprised I decided to get a PhD. She encouraged me a lot when I was in graduate school. Her encouragement was something I needed to excel in ways I’d never excelled in before. I was B- student in High School, but a magnum cum laude in college.”
When I asked him how he was handling the two assignments, he answered, “When teaching, I want my students each to leave the classroom as a better person. When preaching, I want you to leave the church as a more informed and virtuous person. Those positions are not really different; they just have a different audience.”
I was hoping his wife Gabrielle could join us, but she is currently working weekends. Pastor Christopher told me, “She is a veterinarian. It’s her internship year and she works about 60 hours a week. It is similar to regular med school. When we met, we were 2 kids from a small town. Who would have thought we would be receiving letters in the mail addressed to Dr. and Dr. Carter?”
I hope that temporary doesn’t apply too strongly to Pastor Dr. Christopher; I hope he is with us for a long time. When he and I finished our conversation, we decided to have a similar one in a year. At that time, Gabrielle will join us. So, look forward to “Meet Our Dr. Christopher and Dr. Gabrielle” next year.