Monday, May 11, 2009

Life Update

So, what's been up over the last year?

In brief, in May 2008 (I think) I was contacted by a church in Dunn, NC, looking for their first full-time Associate Pastor, with responsibility for music, youth, and children's ministry. I, of course, had never considered youth or children's ministry as possible avenues of service for myself. In fact, in seminary, the only two things I "knew" where that I wasn't being called to preach or to be a youth minister. Shows what I knew!

It's a church of 85 or so attenders, with a choir of 15, youth group of 6, and children's ministry (k-5th) of 20-25. I moved in mid-August and started working officially in September, and it feels like I've not had a moment's rest since! This is not really good - I'm going to have to do better Sabbathing - but it has been interesting and exciting. In a lot of ways, it feels like the culmination of work I've been doing in bits and pieces for the last 15 years - I get a use for skills I learned in pastoral care as a chaplain (esp. as it's an older congregation), a use for musical skills I hadn't used in awhile (I'm having a ball planning worship and rehearsing a choir again - I'd really missed that), skills learned dabbling in college ministry the last couple of years, things learned working with the education ministry at my old church (Emmanuel Baptist Fellowship, Lexington SC), where I was part of a small, semi-missional church where I learned a lot of other things that I'm now putting to use.

The difference is, while I was a chaplain and a church pianist and a volunteer college minister, I was doing these things in bits and pieces, at different times and places. Now all those bits and pieces get to be used in the same place. I feel more whole and fulfilled than I have in years.

It's a good church. It calls itself missional, which it's not. We have a project every month or so where we have an emphasis on a particular project or need, and raise money for it, fairly successfully. There are also times of service - and the church works pretty hard on some of them, like Operation Christmas Child, or putting together packages for Meals on Wheels at Christmas, or supporting a food bank. But the service times, while good and valid, aren't relational - we rarely meet the people we're ministering too. As a result, though there's some talk about the least of these, we're rarely meeting or going to church with people "not like us".

But there's a lot of good things going on, and a lot of potential for better (more relational, loving, Kingdom-serving things), and some of us (I like to to think I'm included here) are starting to get the mental and emotional shift necessary to understand giving not as giving money but giving your whole self, even as Christ gave His whole self to us.


Sunday, May 3, 2009

Vocation Check-up

51 weeks ago, in one of my last posts before my hiatus, I wrote this:

My understanding of vocation may be shifting, by the way.
I still agree and am passionate about what I've said [about "being a minister"] - being a reminder [to others that they are ministers, too], equipper, and community-builder. But there's another element that's come to the surface in the last few years, an element that working in hospitals and hospices has helped to crystallize, as well as reading literature from the emerging church and my own Bible study.

I have seen too many men and women die feeling lonely and cut off from the church…too many people die without believing they are loved, or that God intended for them, for us all, to have lives of meaning and purpose - to know that we are of infinite value. I have watched people die who never got to the point where they trusted that.

My dream is to be a part of a church community that is not content to leave those needs in other hands. My dream is to be a part of a church that believes Jesus meant it when he said that whatever we have done for the least of these - feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, caring for the sick, visiting the prisoners and the oppressed - whatever we have done for them, we have done for Christ.

And whatever we have not done for them, we have not done for Christ.

The fact is, the church is meant to be doing this work....

More true than ever. And hard to do. Churches, like every institution, take on a life of their own. It's completely possible to get so involved in maintaining the daily functioning of the group that you don't attend to things outside. It shouldn't be possible. But it is. And this is why we need church. For all the pit-falls of an organization, there's also a corresponding benefit. Church is doing what it's supposed to when the people you're with challenge and inspire you to reach out, open up (to God and neighbor), to dream and to experiment on ways to join God in the world.

If you're part of a church that doesn't do that, you may need to look for another.


Friday, May 1, 2009

A tweet (but not that kind)

Well, it's been nearly a year since my last post. In that time I've accepted a new job (a calling to church) in a new town in a new state and begun to integrate into a new community. It's been extraordinarily busy, mostly good, occasionally painful, usually exhilirating, and always time-consuming.

And so I've not been posting.

Some of that is, honestly, because as I was in the job interview process I decided I needed to not put all my thoughts on-line...that I wanted to be honest and transparent with interviewers but still maintain the right to filter.

Since I've moved and started a church, where people should be loved and accepted for who they are, but as we all know, that's a struggle...since I've moved, I've continued to wrestle with the boundaries of public and private honesty, and haven't quite decided to start posting again. And, of course, I've simply been really busy, too.

Plus, about a month before I stopped posting semi-regularly, I discovered Facebook...and that deflected a lot of my on-line time.

But I have missed the outlet for self-reflection combined with reaching out. I've begun to feel that I'm too busy *not* to make time for that, actually. And the twitterization of Facebook makes my like for it a little less - and I feel the need for something that allows more of me, and less time dodging invitations to add new apps.

So anyway, now that I've had a year to forget how this's a peep of a whistle. I'm back, I think. See you soon.