Before I went into the ministry, I was a business manager. Scuttling papers back and forth on my desk, I dreamed of seminary. A headache grew between my eyes every single day. As I downed the aspirin, I couldn’t wait to train for my “real job.” I had no idea that being a business manager was preparing me for my calling.
I used to get a phone call every Monday morning. “I just wanted to let you know what’s being said,” the caller would begin, and my body would tense as if preparing to be punched. Then, I would get the rundown of every complaint that people had about me.
Sixteen years ago, I kept a journal of my first year in ministry. At the end, I remember pasting an illustration of a man who was white and naked, and was being pulled apart by different hands. It was almost as if he were on a medieval torture rack, except fingers stretched him. The drawing, I felt, perfectly illustrated my first year as a pastor.
When we get the age breakdown of the Presbyterian Church's General Assembly, it’s nothing short of horrendous. 91 percent of the laity are 50 and older. 67 percent of the Clergy are 50 and older. A mere 23 percent of all commissioners are under 50. What can we do about it?
I returned from UNCO (short for Unconference), an open-space incubator for churches. We wanted a place where creative ministries would be celebrated and supported, and it’s working. We have grown from two new ministries to over twenty. It’s a brain trust for starting progressive communities and sustaining traditional ones.
I recently spoke at a stewardship conference. I always learn a tremendous amount when I speak, and that conference in particular was full of insightful people who inspired me to think theologically and practically about stewardship.
I’ve been interested in the idea of “taboos” for a long time—those intricate rules that overarch our society and ideas of the sacred. They can be tools to keep people from harming others or themselves. They can be used as social conditioning, arbitrarily enforcing certain behaviors as a means of control.