Enough allusions and vague references. Here is the thing that has been on my mind.
In late September, my denominational executive person, known in our tradition as a Conference Minister, asked if I would consider becoming a new church developer.
His email came within a day of my offering up this prayer:
"God, I’m ready to do whatever you want me to do next. I’m not sure what it is, but I’m ready."
Ever since then I’ve been engaged in a shy sort of discernment, backing away from the idea at the same time that I was participating in the screening process our national church has for potential new church developers. It’s become pretty clear that the only thing holding me back is worry about how the whole thing will be financed. Oh, I came up with a few other questions and concerns, but that is truly the major one. I’m the primary support of my children, and although #1 Son’s last tuition check will be sent soon, there are two more children to educate. How do I weigh my responsibility to them against my commitment to God?
It probably won’t surprise you to hear that I’ve grappled with this question before, wondering if my work would get in the way of some fruitful aspect of their growing-up lives.
And to be clear with myself, it hasn’t.
But wherever the location of a new church might turn out to be, it won’t be right here in City By the Sea, so the unsettling questions of a possible move come into play, and I do find that is one of the areas of difficulty for me. I hear other pastors talk about conducting national searches, and as much as I do not feel called away from Vacationland, I envy that freedom.
Things we envy? Not good guidelines for a faithful life.
Things we love? Things we aspire to? Areas in which we thrive? Better signposts.
Last month, after my aptitude test scores came back and were high, the Conference Minister and I began to form a committee to study the idea of a new church start further. The committee met for the first time today. As we studied demographic materials and a UCC guide for new church starts, we wondered if the first thing to do was pick the location?
The one person there who knows me the least said things like this: You need to start with the person. New church ministry is incarnational. It starts with a person who is a bit of a fanatic, more evangelical than the average UCC pastor and eager to do the work. (He may have made those persons sound a little crazy, but in a good way.)
I’m pretty sure, though I left there with a bit of a dazed quality, that I said yes to going on to the next step in the process.
Well, really, I did say yes. I’m just a bit amazed at the whole thing and finding it hard to wrap my head all the way around it.
There are three areas in the state that are under consideration, all of which came to the Conference Minister’s attention from people local to those areas. Now we will begin a round of conversations with clergy and laity in those areas and see what the Spirit of God reveals. And in the meantime, I will move on to another interim when this one ends.
I’m ready to spong.