A Long and Winding Road

A Long and Winding Road

Our Journeys by Rev. Dr. Thomas Hoffmann

Most of us know only bits and pieces of the spiritual journeys of our two lead transitional pastors, the Revs. Jess Moffatt and Thomas Hoffmann. This week, Pastor Thomas shares more of his story:

I was born and raised in Wisconsin. My father was a hard-working truck driver. He never went to college but read every book in the high school library; he could recite Robert Burns's poetry by heart. My mother was a Christian Science Practitioner (the closest thing they have to clergy), but she wouldn’t accept that she suffered from severe bipolar disorder. This made family life very difficult for me and my three siblings. One benefit of being raised in what others called “a weird religious group” was that it forced me to think about God and theology at an early age. Although I was sure I believed in God, I stopped attending church when I was 12.
The 1960s and 70s turned me into a full-fledged, long-haired hippie freak. My best friend kept dragging me to a summer family Christian camp, and despite my radical looks and lifestyle, I was unconditionally accepted there. Somehow, these folks saw God’s hand in my life, even though I still wasn’t convinced about this ‘Christian’ thing. So, I kept looking for God. As a young adult, I briefly owned an occult bookstore and became very committed to American Hinduism. But I also kept returning to those summer camps, feeling God’s love in a way I felt nowhere else. It was at camp where I met my soon-to-be wife Nancy, where she and I eventually committed our lives to the Way of Jesus, and where I first felt the call to full-time ministry. (No wonder I’m big on the importance of youth ministry and summer camps.)
But Nancy and I were still without a "normal" church background or home. One of the camp leaders was a Methodist pastor. He told us about the “wide arms” of the Methodist Church. This meant persons could have significant religious differences but also allow the Holy Spirit to unite, grow and change them. Some other denominations, he said, might be more restrictive in their beliefs and not allow this. Because of my spiritual wanderings, I knew I had to grow a LOT more. I needed a church that could put up with me as I continued to change. Nancy and I went all-in with Methodism, and we have never looked back.

We moved to Oklahoma in 1980, where I attended Oral Roberts University. Along with others, Pastor Jess and I were first ordained in 1986. Then, for 37 years, it was the itinerant Methodist ministry for the Hoffmanns. We have had the privilege of sharing Jesus with local churches, campus ministries, and even foreign countries. In the 1990s, when we attended Church of the Servant, my work with the Oklahoma Conference allowed me to sit down with Methodists of all stripes: charismatic, evangelical, mainline, progressive—you name it. I could see God working through all of them in some way. I could see we had more in common than we had differences. And I could see the Holy Spirit wasn't quite done with any of us yet!

Even after 40 years as a Christian, the Holy Spirit isn’t done with me. The Spirit has given me an insatiable appetite to explore the inner and outer worlds of God’s good creation. I love being a pastor. I love teaching. I love being both a non-profit business consultant and a spiritual director. I love what I learn from my post-graduate studies about race relations, Eastern Orthodox spirituality, and planetary science. I especially thank God for my unusual past spiritual wanderings because now I feel so comfortable being with those of other faiths and beliefs and sharing with them what Christ means to me. Doesn’t Paul say, "All things work out for good for those who love God and have been called for God’s purpose" (Romans 8:28)? It’s true!

But mostly: I love hearing about others’ spiritual journeys. And if I can walk that journey with them for a while, and we can discover new ‘God-sightings’ along the way, well, that’s just the very best of days! Because, as Christians, what we go through isn’t just about ourselves anymore. We share this Christian life together. Again, Paul talks about this in 2 Corinthians 1: if you go through hard times, it’s so you can understand mine. If I find comfort in God, it's so I can share that comfort with you. You and I are pilgrims on this road together.
Please look forward to a future “Towel and Basin” blogpost where Pastor Jess will share her spiritual journey.