Call, Ministry

To know the place for the first time


What we call the beginning is often the end

And to make an end is to make a beginning.

The end is where we start from.

T.S. Eliot, "Little Gidding"

It's my next-to-last day in the office at Y1P, and I'm glad to be able to announce my coming plans. 

In the United Church of Christ, with our Congregational polity, it's never definite until the congregation hears the candidate preach and takes a vote. But I can say that the search committee of the First Parish Congregational Church of North Yarmouth, Maine, has extended a call to me to be their settled pastor, and I have accepted pending a candidating sermon on August 15th.

You may read more about the church here. I'm sure you will note the Pet Place, a food and supply pantry for people having financial trouble caring for their pets. This gets many paws up at our house. 

It may seem strange, after all this flying around, that I am staying in the area, but I believe that the Holy Spirit played a role throughout the process, on both sides. I'm grateful to have had the chance to talk to and meet faithful UCC people from other Conferences, and to look far and wide, but I'm also quite certain the right fit is here.

Further on in "Little Gidding," Eliot writes:

We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time.

It won't be my first time in North Yarmouth on August 15th. I preached there once as a student in 1997 (Hope no one remembers, I suspect it was a terrible sermon! I remember it was hand-written and about King David.), and the former pastor is the friend known occasionally on my blog as Country Parson. I've been to a number of events in the gorgeous new Fellowship Hall. 

Around the town, LP learned to contra dance at the Westcustogo Grange. And locals should know, I'm extremely familiar with the menu at Stone's

I'm excited to learn what the future will hold and thank you for your prayers and good thoughts during this whole process. 

Bearnaise Sauce Dogs, Call

Performing to Type

I've been reading Mary-Ann Bowman's blog for a long time now. She writes about her Bernese Mountain Dogs, how she breeds them and trains them and loves them. And she writes about life. Today she described different categories of agility competition for dogs, and the community pressure to perform in a certain category, when really, Bernese Mountain Dogs who are of the right "type," who match the standard for the breed, are really not particularly lithe in build and probably do better in another category, where the jumps are set a few inches lower. There is such a category, and oddly enough it is described as "Preferred" when in fact it's snubbed by other Berner owners, who prefer to have their dogs compete in "Regular," going over higher jumps.

This is not really about Berners and agility, though we did once sign up for an Agility class with Sam, only to discover he was terrified of the tunnel, and we ended up running Molly over the course, who loved it, but of course had Teh Arf-ritis from Heck and could never have been a competitor, though heaven knows she would have loved the attention.

This is really about community standards and expectations. What's in a title? I'm interviewing for jobs that are "Pastor" and for jobs that are "Senior Pastor." One sounds more impressive than the other, simply because of that hierarchical word, "Senior." It says, "You've arrived!" My Presbyterian friends talk a lot about whether they'll get to be "Head of Staff," something I don't hear in the UCC, but we all think the same way. If you get to be the boss of another pastor, that's saying something. 

I guess.

But the message in Mary-Ann's post is different. The point is not to collect a certain title but to express fully who you are (or who your dog is, in her case). The point is to figure out, am I the type for this kind of job, or for that one? Where will my gifts be best used? Everyone ought to receive fair compensation, but the title or the package is not the prime object, or rather it ought not be. 

Where is the fit?

So tonight I'm asking myself the same sorts of questions committees ask me. What are the things I love to do in ministry? What are the things I'd just as soon not? What sorts of challenges energize me, and which ones would I just as soon leave for someone else to try and accomplish? 

This doesn't begin to touch on the personal aspects of life and how they wrap into and around the search, but if the job is not a fit, the rest won't be either, at least I don't think so. 

The sturdy dog better-suited to pulling a cart can still run the agility course, but if you place the bars too high, she won't be successful. She's not the type. Let her take the course that fits, and see her fly. 


Call, Ministry

What I’m Praying

I realize that my blog friends may wonder why I've been unusually quiet. It's because I'm engaged in a job search, and I can't write about it in this public forum. 

But I think I can tell you about what I've been praying, for some time now.

When I first went to visit Andover Newton in 1992, the text used in worship was Isaiah 6. It was the first time I sang, "Here I Am, Lord," and the text and the hymn inspired me throughout seminary.

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I; send me!” (Isaiah 6:8, NRSV)

But all I really assented to was going to seminary. I had my fingers crossed about whatever was coming next. I hoped, hoped, hoped I could be faithful to God's calling without disarranging other lives, or having people be upset with me. 

Despite that tendency, which has absolutely continued, about six months ago, I started praying, almost without meaning to, "Here am I; send me."

I'm still praying, "Send me," and trusting that the rest will sort itself out, in God's time, in God's way. 

Your prayers appreciated.