Tuesday, September 26, 2006

is 30 too young to be introspective about my career?

My 30th birthday, which happens to be today, is prompting a bit of self-reflection.

It seems incredible that I've been in ministry in the same place for over 5 years now. That's since I was 24. That's, like, 1/6 of my life. (That's so many years of my youth!!)

The reflection all started at the workshop on the new pensions system, I suppose--as I contemplated my 35 more years 'til retirement. Sure, it's more than a lifetime that's left, but it's also a significant chunk of life I've now lived as a pastor.

Which makes me ask myself: have I done the pastoral and prophetic things that I hoped to? Have I figured out how to be the person I feel called to be?

It's so easy to feel caught in the day-to-day; submitting sermon titles and confirming what scripture I'll preach on, sifting through email messages, filling out forms that attempt to document my ministry, noticing anniversaries of events in the lives of my congregation members. And it's easy to notice that we haven't arrived and God's kin-dom yet. (Though I'm still building for the revolution...)

How do I measure my life as a pastor?

(I feel a song from Rent coming on.)

Perhaps tomorrow I'll pretend to be "cleaning" my desk (a task that no one would try to disuade me from), and look through that pile of nice notes and cards that folks have shared with me through my years. It is so good to take time to remember some of the steps along the way--times when my role as pastor intersected with others in a way that was life-giving. What a gift it's been to be a part of God inspiring wondrous things in the lives of real people...

A friend asked recently about what the joys in pastoral life are. (A sobering reminder of how much quicker I tend to be at sharing hardships...) It seems funny to begin to share them. In part, I think, because I know they're not my own. And they'd probably make me sound pretty smug and pompous. I mean, the times when I've been at my best, I know it's that wily holy Spirit working through me...and it feels awfully funny to take anything resembling credit for that.

But it has been good--wonderful, even--to feel myself put in a place where I could be something like midwife for the Spirit's work. And an honor to be trusted by the church to do that (at 24, no less!). And to see the church grow in their trust of me, as I grow in my trust of the community.

I'm not sure where all this going, but I think it's becoming excitement about what the next years will bring.

Thank God for these first 30 years!

(No disrespect to Tim McGraw intended.)

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


The holiest place I've been lately would have to be the west end of the dining hall at Camp Cedar Glen.

The mountains usually feel holy to me, but offering communion on the last day of a retreat for adults with HIV/AIDS took holy to a new place.

I'm not entirely comfortable with thinking that I have a firm grasp of what happens at the communion table. Or how Jesus' blood becomes life for us all. But, somehow, offering that cup of salvation to a room full of people living with a disease carried in their blood felt more life-giving than most of what I do. Somehow, it met the hunger of my heart, and seemed to meet the hunger of others who gathered.

There was the man who'd told me he didn't believe he could have a relationship with God anymore. But who found God at the retreat, in the community that gathered.

There was the man who'd given up singing when he was diagnosed with HIV as his career was taking off, who gave voice to the most glorious music setting of St. Francis's prayer.

There was the woman whose search for a community where she can worship the God she's known at the retreat, whose love and authority isn't limited to heterosexual men, and whose sacraments are open to all, has led her to leave the church where she'd first known God.

There were so many.

And we shared in a holy meal, under the same roof where we'd shared other meals all week. (And, I saw then, every one of them had been holy.)

In this moment, for me, it was so good to name the sacramental meal--and to know that we were not alone on that mountain. Our sacrament was the same that has been shared for millenia (making space for the millenias' worth of ways we've fallen short of the glory of the feast...).

What a funny bunch of people we are--the church. Not at all the people who have it figure out. Unless, I suppose, figuring "it" out is just realizing that we're loved by a God who calls us to try to love each other.