In the comments on my last post, Questing Parson drew attention to this phrase: "a settled community of faith."
I chose those words not uncarefully, but perhaps not carefully enough.
I've been pondering this cartoon ever since I saw it posted on Bob Fisher's blog, church.nu, last fall. In both the church I'm serving and in the planning for the Annual Meeting of our Maine Conference of the United Church of Christ, I've been challenged to apply the principles I learned at the New Church Leadership Institute in 2008. My dream of planting a church with the support of the Conference stalled because of the bad economy–that's a hard thing, I'm still sad about it. Weighing my diagnosis with RA and the economy together, it makes rational sense for me to let it go, to trust that it will come about in its own time and place, that I don't have the 60-80 hours per week of energy that might be optimum for a church planter. And so forth.
Still sad about it.
So. Coming to that conclusion meant also having to start reconsidering what in the world God might be calling me to do in ministry. I went back and forth, making lists of things I love about doing Interim ministry and things I dearly miss about being a settled pastor.
Settled–there's that word my friend noted, probably wondering if a community of faith can or ought to be settled. He's a Methodist, therefore committed to itinerate when called to do so. But that is not our way. We have settled pastors and transitional or interim pastors, and when we accept a call to be a settled pastor, we stay put indefinitely.
Perhaps it would have been better, more accurate, for me to say "a call to settled ministry."
I didn't, though, because I didn't want to be locked into the idea that I was talking about simply a job, as in "my ministry," nor did I want to use the word "church," because that sounds too much like talking about a building.
And so I wrote those words "a settled community of faith," and however inaccurate or provoking they may seem to some, they meant something to me in that moment.
I was thinking of how it felt to be unsettled in my family life, in the years after my separation, when I lived for a year knowing I must sell my house, and then another year in temporary quarters, and then finally settled here.
There are so many kinds of settling: getting comfortable as we did in this house; giving up on getting more; becoming stale and ceasing to move or grow. It's the first of those three I'm seeking, because in settling here we became free to grow and change instead of reacting constantly to loss and transition. That's what I'm hoping for, not to grow stale or to give up and take less but to become part of something, to stretch and deepen myself, and to help make that possible for others.