By Rosanne BowmanLIMA — Serving in the church is nothing new for Wanda Werking, associate pastor at South Side Christian Church. What is new, however, is the fact that she is now ordained.Even in her first career in what is now known as the Department of Jobs and Family Services, Werking was helping people.“I was always active in church,” she said. “About 20 years ago, I felt called to do more, so I found this Lexington Theological Seminary had classes for lay people to prepare them to be licensed or commissioned pastors. I started there 18 years ago. At the time, I was still working for the Department of Welfare Services — that's what it used to be called anyway.” Werking knew she would be retiring after putting in 30 years on the job, so she continued to take classes at the seminary, eventually completing the associate minister program. However, she did not stop there but continues to take classes even today. She retired from her job in 1998, and in 1999, she was called as the associate pastor at South Side Christian Church. “I've had this position for over 13 years now,” she said. “In our denomination, you can be confirmed but don't have to be ordained to serve as a minister.”The old criteria to become ordained required a degree. “We still have the traditional track for ordination which requires a Master of Divinity degree, including three years of seminary,” explained Werking. The new criteria added an apprentice track, which means instead of the educational requirement, the candidate is required to demonstrate competency in 16 different areas either through classes or life experiences. These competencies include a wide variety of things from biblical knowledge, theology and evangelism to church administration and cross-cultural and anti-racism experience. “I serve on the committee on ministry,” said the Rev. Doug Adams, senior pastor at South Side Christian Church. “When the new criteria came along, I thought Wanda was the perfect candidate to be ordained.”Despite a lot of encouragement, Werking still was not completely sure this was her path.“I still wasn't convinced I should become ordained,” said Werking, “but then I found out that all the years of classes I had taken at Lexington and all the experiences I had at the agency qualified me, and I wouldn't have to take any more classes.”The first step was for the church to write a letter of recommendation, and then Werking had to show documentation of her class work and her experiences. “It's a good thing I kept all that documentation of those classes, so I could prove I actually went,” she said. She then had to have an interview with the Commission of Ministry where they went over the 16 areas of competency. She also had to defend what she believed. She was approved on April 24. The ordination ceremony, which lasted about an hour and a half, took place on June 3, making Werking the first person in Ohio to be ordained under the new criteria. In keeping with the occasion, things were a bit different than a traditional ceremony. “It's tradition at ordinations to receive a robe, stole, chalice (cup), paten (plate on which the communion bread is placed) and Bible,” Werking said. “Usually these are new items, but I used ones that were given to me instead. I used a clear chalice that my daughter gave me, and I used the robe and stole that the church presented to me when I was installed in 1999. I used my Bible that a family at our church had rebound for me. Everything has personal meaning to me.”The ceremony also incorporated Werking's children and grandchildren. “My family sings,” she said. “My grandson, who is also preparing for the ministry, did a reading in Hebrew. It was a very emotional and exciting experience for me. To have my children and grandchildren all participating in one capacity or another was a blessing for me.” Despite her ordination, Werking's job description will not change.“A commissioned minister — which is what I was — can do all the ordinal duties of an ordained minister,” she said.Adams feels that Werking becoming ordained just makes what she does official.“I think it's appropriate for her to be ordained,” he said. “She has done a lot of credible work and has made major contributions over the years. In our eyes, she's always been ordained — now she has that seal of approval.”For Werking, her ordination is just another sign that she is right where she needs to be. “I guess it's probably an affirmation of my calling, a validation,” she said. “The words that were spoken by the representative of our congregation as well as the sermon were an affirmation to me that I am, and have been, following my call into the ministry by God. I was honored and humbled by all those who shared the day with me.”If you have a story idea or an item you feel the community would like to know about for the Religion section, please contact Rosanne Bowman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-516-6149.