A year without a church
Itâ€™s been one year since I left my position as pastor of a lovely rural congregation to lead The Project F-M, a ministry that delightfully defies easy categorization but could not be called a church. Itâ€™s been one year since Iâ€™ve preached regularly, presided over the sacraments, led funeral services, visited shut-ins, taught Sunday school, been to the hospital, or responded when someone said â€śPastor.â€ť One year.
Pastor friends often ask me, â€śDo you miss it?â€ť Itâ€™s a complicated response.
Do I miss accompanying people in their lifeâ€™s struggles? A little, but I do that informally now, just without a pastoral title.
Do I miss preaching regularly? Sort of. I miss preaching in a congregation whose stories I know, whose faces I envisioned as I constructed my sermons, but I do not miss the weekly struggle of it all. (And I most certainly donâ€™t miss anxious Saturday nights editing sermons before going to bed early.)
Do I miss my public role as pastor in a small community? Somewhat, but Iâ€™ve happily embraced my more stealth role of practical theology guru and coffee shop interloper.
I most certainly do miss the freedom and time to write. I most certainly do miss the weekly foray into the lectionary/scriptures. I most certainly do miss the challenge of leading a congregation of folks desperately trying to follow Jesus Christ.
In this first full year of a non-pastory position, Iâ€™ve tried to listen carefully to the new sorts of questions that have come since assuming my position of Director/Mission Developer with the Project F-M. I have to admit that being able to say to young adults that â€śI lead a non-profit ministry connected to the ELCAâ€ť rather than â€śIâ€™m pastor of such-and-such a churchâ€ť opens many more doors for conversation. For better or for worse, itâ€™s makes for a much more comfortable introduction both for me and the young adults I encounter.
And, to be completely honest, Iâ€™ve felt more comfortable in my own skin as a non-pastor type. I remember Carol Howard Merritt writing once (in a post I canâ€™t find) that it took her years to live into her role as pastor, that she didnâ€™t even like to be called â€śPastorâ€ť until several years serving as one. When I read Carolâ€™s post many months ago, I wondered when, or if, that would happen to me. I still wonder.
What I donâ€™t wonder about, though, is my itching for the academy, thirst for teaching opportunities, hunger for more formal studies. What I donâ€™t wonder about is my ever-stronger belief that the church needs gifted pastoral leaders dedicated to lifelong ministry. What I donâ€™t wonder about is my desire to live into new ways of leadership for myself, not in spite of the church but for the love of it. Iâ€™m just not sure where that means for me, or how to get there at the moment.
I donâ€™t usually make formal New Yearâ€™s resolutions, but at the start of 2012 a conversation with a mentor brought out two words that have become a sort of mantra for me this year: patience and hope. Funny thing is that they feel sort of pastor-like, which isnâ€™t such a bad thing at all.
Originally posted at A Wee Blether