With incredible ease I can transport myself back to that beautiful fall, Halloween day 10 years ago. I remember posing in front of the church marquee emblazoned with my name holding my then 6-month old nephew. I remember hastily sending friends back to the grocery store for more bread when we realized that we didn’t have enough. I remember laughing knowingly and somewhat uncomfortably when my seminary professor, mentor and friend Dr. Scott Haldeman reminded me (and us all) in his sermon that ministry is “Not About You.” I remember the incredible weight of the blessing during which the gathered body laid hands upon me, asking the Spirit to name me as an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. I remember the slightly jaw-dropping, heart-stopping feeling I had as I took my ordination vows, and then thought, “Oh, my. What did I just do?” I remember how nerve-wrackingly natural it felt to preside at the Communion Table for the first time, beckoning to ALL that they were welcome to share in the feast.
What a roller coaster ride 10 years has been. God’s ministry has prompted me to learn things, do things and go places that I would never, ever have chosen on my own. That’s the blessing of allowing God to replace your own desires and goals with the not-so-gentle nudge of the guiding Spirit.
So, as my gift to myself and all of you, here are my semi-random musings about life and ministry, the things I’ve learned in 10 years and the unexpected turns I didn’t expect:
- Take Sabbath like it is your job.
- Learning how to get out of a choke hold can be a valid form of ministry preparation.
- Ministry most often happens in the “in-between” times.
- Packing your bags for yet another trip to a place you didn’t expect to go IS a spiritual experience/practice.
- The church would be a lot easier without all the people. It also wouldn’t be the messy, messed-up, blessed and precious miracle that it is.
- Yoga (or whatever your spiritual practice is) will save your life. Over and over again.
- Clergy get to dress up like its Halloween every Sunday. It’s kind of fun.
- God hones you in the fire of community.
- Your friends (especially those outside the church) will save your sanity. Over and over again.
- Your ministry will end the day you stop learning new things.
- Working with at-risk youth perfectly prepares you for serving in judicatory ministry.
- I never knew that I could love people so much in spite of and because of their many wondrous and blessed imperfections.
- Clergy can and should wear cute clothes and shoes. Fight the Frump!
- No matter what you do or where you go or how much you wish for it, you never stop being a pastor.
- Laying a reassuring hand on someone’s shoulder and offering a kind smile (no matter how inadequate it seems) counts as ministry.
- Living with and loving God’s people is always a privilege. Don’t take it for granted.
On my 10th anniversary day, I feel a deep, deep sense of gratitude for all of God’s people who mold me, shape me, love me (despite my faults) and forgive me over and over again as I attempt to live up to my ordination vows each and every day.
Thank you for walking on this journey with me. The journey wouldn’t exist without you.