Greetings! My name is Jacob Hercamp and I am a vicar finishing up my year of “servitude” in a congregation that I have come to love. Allow me if you will to recount some of my lessons and experiences:
My vicarage placement service was not anything special, there was little pomp and circumstance. I was not with my brothers at Fort Wayne; I was at Westfield House, England, newly engaged, and wondering where the good vicarage placement committee was going to send me and my soon to be wife. When I heard the news of my placement at Zion I did not know what to say or to think. It was another small town, similar to the area I grew up, where agriculture comprises most of the local economy. I actually had trouble finding the town on a map since the town is so tiny. Over the course of our year here I come to admire the people of this safe, proud, and successful community; now I understand why young people return to raise their families here.
If you think that vicarages start slow with lots of training you would be wrong. The Sunday after I was installed my supervisor left for a week leaving me responsible for everything; my first Sunday in the pulpit I was completely solo. It was baptism by fire, but my supervisor likes to test his vicars this way. By the second month I was visiting a young woman dying from cancer who had been estranged from the church for quite some time. There is nothing in the classroom that can truly prepare you for that kind of a visit. Those visits made me see the true and awesome power of the Word of God working through my feeble words. To see her faith grow as she was dying was a joy! She clung to Jesus, her redeemer and salvation, and she did not die in fear.
It’s amazing how much reflection a guy can have while on vicarage. Suddenly after every conversation, bible study, sermon, or teaching lesson I was wondering how I could have handled the situation better or differently. Perhaps I could have listened more and talked less. Maybe I lost control of the classroom or my emotions. Maybe my sermon was written well but preached poorly. Reflection is useful for learning but humbling to the flesh. Thankfully my supervisor was there to help me to understand and process my thoughts or feelings. At first I did not take kindly to his criticisms; no one likes being told that their work is sloppy or that their personality hinders their conversations and future relationships with people. Thanks be to God these are the things that my supervisor kindly and compassionately said to me, even when saying them brought conviction upon himself. He loved me enough to help to me succeed, and for all his guidance I will be forever thankful. Now I understand by experience and example what is meant by the phrase, “dying to oneself, and living for Christ.”
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” (2 Corinthians 4:7) My jar is nothing to look at. It is broken; I am a sinner who needs Jesus just like every person in the world. Vicarage has taught me that I have nothing of myself to give to my future congregation. I must only give Jesus. He is the one who saves us from sins, not some vicar or pastor, but Jesus. I needed my vicarage, and I thank God for the grace that He has shown to me as He continues to mold me into a future servant for His Church.