Moving down in the world: Called to a smaller place

I’m sitting on Tamassee Knob, a large rock known for its height—1,762 feet above sea level is a surprising elevation for South Carolina. The scenic overlook is only a few miles from the town of Walhalla (pop. 3,500), where I’m a 55-year-old Lutheran pastor.

Tamassee means “Place of the Sunlight of God” in Cherokee, and the morning is filled with brilliant light as well as silence; there was only one other hiker on the trail this morning. In my day pack are a water bottle, banana, journal and Bible. I read from John 4 about the woman at the well and occasionally take a long slow sip of the distant views.

I’m also only a three-hour drive from the bustle of downtown Columbia and the large congregation I served for nine years—but it feels light-years away. Many of my colleagues think of me as lost these days. What in the hell is Frank Honeycutt doing? is the question I heard in the days before I left a “destination church” (as the Alban Institute puts it) for a small, out-of-the-way congregation upstate. Even now I sometimes expect to hear God speak through the wind, asking the question once posed to Elijah: “What are you doing here?” (1 Kings 19:13).