I’ve been struck, recently, on an important distinction we are quick to ignore in this land of church leadership. In this post-Christendom reality that we institutional church folk find ourselves in, our training and leadership structures have been quick to faux adapt, passing along well-meaning advice and no shortage of training events for would-be pastors and renewing pastors to “be more entrepreneurial.” Ministry of the future, this line of thinking goes, requires bivocational or tentmaking structures. It requires new organizational adaptations. It requires a different set of skills than ministry of the past 75 years. Yet, such advice fails to recognize as much as it is attempting to bring forward: the Spirit endows various gifts, none of them higher than the others. Or, to put it more plainly, not all pastors are entrepreneurs. That’s not a failing.
I used to have a personal philosophy on possessions: beyond furniture, own nothing more than I could fit in a panel van to move around. My first few moves were in the smallest U-Haul truck available. Another move was simply in the bed of a pickup. Another a pickup plus medium trailer. And when I moved across the country it was in two of those small, square storage pods (plus important documents in my Chevy Aveo backseat as I drove from Minnesota to California).
Lately I’ve been feeling overwhelmed. Having wrestled with anxiety and depression through most of my life, I recognize the signs: lethargy, a racing mind, piles throughout my apartment, a car that looks like it’s simply a Dumpster with an internal combustion engine attached. In a strange way, my busy, frantic work pace and taking on more responsibility helps me to stay grounded in the present — and can pull me away from the extremes of my mental health state. But this time around I find myself feeling absolutely overwhelmed, and I wonder if there aren’t others feeling the same way.
Last week it was made public that I have accepted a new professional role. Come January I will depart as Associate Pastor for First Congregational Church of Palo Alto, United Church of Christ, in order to become Associate Conference Minister for the United Church of Christ in Northern California/Nevada. I’m excited by this transition, if not a bit sad at leaving a church filled with people I love and a vibrant ministry that is life-giving and life-transforming. One of the major changes in my life that will come with this new role is a greater familiarity with the freeways, highways, and roadways of California and Nevada — and, by extension, the great and beautiful geography that our territory includes.
Nathan Kirkpatrick’s blog posting at Faith & Leadership a few weeks ago really struck a chord with me. My morning devotional included one of my favorite passages of scripture from Hebrews 12:
So then let’s also run the race that is laid out in front of us, since we have such a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us.
I’m pondering on these things and how they intersect as I sit in my office-study on this Wednesday. Particularly my first set of robes and stoles.
Want to join in bellyaching with mainline Protestant clergy? Complain about the state of your church building. A strange, bizarre kind of competition exists among many in this group of people about how much deferred maintenance one building can suffer before the roof caves in. Of course, some of that competition is redirected survivalism — for many of our churches, the building maintenance budget is also the same budget that pays minor details like the pastor’s salary, Sunday School curriculum, or provides emergency cash for persons in need. I’m sympathetic to the challenge, and there are myriad examples of churches that have ditched the building in favor of a new model of ministry. But what if the building isn’t what is holding the church back from where the Spirit is calling it?
With all of the attention surrounding the Rowan County, Kentucky, clerk’s refusal to issue marriage licenses following the Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision — and her subsequent jailing in contempt of the order of a federal judge — it’s hard to not make comments that are self-aggrandizing at best, and deeply arrogant at worst, in response. That’s why I appreciated so much Libby Anne’s post yesterday challenging us all to measure our response to Ms. Davis.
This weekend is the Annual Gathering of the Northern California Nevada Conference of the United Church of Christ. For 150 years, give or take, Christians in our tribe (and our tribal ancestors) have been gathering together as witness to our Conference covenant of mutual mission, support, and accountability in this particular geography. For most of the last 16 months, I have served as Moderator of the Conference — the primary officer, convener, and facilitator for our form of governance and order.
Last week my car was in the shop for service. (Which is the subject for a whole different post at some point.) Given the particular geography in which I live, and the taxi economics thereof, it means I get a lot of practice in both my public transit and walking skills than usual.
Sometimes in life are these moments, honest and authentic moments when we are floored by our own thoughts or observations. Call them “a-ha!” moments, “duh!” moments, or sometimes moments you don’t want to admit publicly — but they are momentary opportunities for reawakening and renewal. At least, they can be and should be.