- It's hard to know what to do on Saturdays when I'm not preaching.
- I wonder where I will end up next?
- When I hear young people singing beautifully, as I did at LP's District Honors Chorus Festival today, I feel hopeful for the world.
- When I come home and read news about the Tea Party Convention, I don't.
- Really, it's hard to figure out how to structure my week when I'm not preaching.
- I fear I sound whiny, which is not nice to some of my pastor friends who are between engagements, so to speak.
- Leaving is an inevitable part of life, but in Interim Ministry, it comes with alarming regularity.
- Maybe I ought to be less mopey and watch TV with LP instead.
- We have that "What Not to Wear" with the Episcopal priest on our DVR.
- Next week I'll try to find a writing rhythm, but at the moment it feels pretty pointless because…
- it's not for preaching or the associated preparation.
- And maybe I need a writing project.
- But I don't know what that would be.
- Except I did suggest to Pure Luck that maybe someone might be interested in the story of a pastor married to an atheist, and he said sure, and I said we could write it together, and he suggested I could interview him, which is to say, do the work myself.
- Lastly, in response to the ways we have tried to accommodate various worries about Communion (germs, gluten, etc.), LP suggests it's getting to the point we will be handing people a plastic wafer to hold, contemplate, and then return to us.
Three years ago this week, leading up to the 2nd Sunday after Epiphany, I was unpacking my books at my first Interim Ministry job, wondering if I would know what to say when the time came to preach on that first Sunday. On Baptism of Christ Sunday I said farewell to Small Church, my first call, a place full of people I loved. (I still do, though I make a point of doing it from a distance.) I learned how to do many ministry tasks there; I'm appreciative of how gentle they were with me, mostly, and how much room they gave me to experiment. When you know the congregation, when you know your context, you can do that.
In the past three years, I've learned three new congregations, and said goodbye to two of them. The towns, the people, the churches have all been very different from each other and from Small Church. So much of preaching is understanding location: geographic, socio-economic, historical and personal. I suppose I should say theological, too, though it's harder to clarify that sometimes. I know mine, but Congregational UCC people don't tend to verbalize theirs. You have to watch for it in practice.
To each preaching relationship, I bring my own locations, my own preferences, my own stories, and I have to hope they work together for good.
This week my personal location includes:
- just back to work after almost two weeks away
- colleague away on study leave
- son still home from college
- lots of program details to oversee or carry out myself
- haven't preached in this church for over a month
One of the challenges of an Interim Associate position has been preaching less often and also feeling less empowered to speak to the transition from the pulpit. I'm not saying anyone told me not to, but rather that I don't feel I have that position in this case. Or I haven't felt that way.
But this week, we have the gospel lesson about Jesus turning water into wine to keep the party going, and this church has been talking since before I arrived about how to be more welcoming, and while I was away a piece I wrote that included thoughts on hospitality was shared at a congregational meeting.
So I think it's possible my context for preaching this week is more like Interim Ministry and less like the Associate's "turn."
I'll keep you posted.
I've been at my current job for six months now, and it was great to meet with the Pastoral Relations Committee tonight and have a wide-ranging conversation about the job, the church and the preparation for a settled Associate Pastor. My work as a consultant to the Search Committee will soon be over, as they get closer to running an ad and beginning to look at candidate profiles. Although I continue to leave open the possibility of seeking a settled call myself when this job ends, I *love* working with search committees. It's exciting, challenging and creative work, helping the committee to paint a picture of the church that will speak to the heart of the pastor who will be the right match.
When I shared this with the committee, the Moderator of the church pointed out the cost at which doing this very gratifying work comes: the wrenching nature of the goodbyes that come at uncomfortably close intervals.
He's got that right.