Perhaps that high school student's misappropriation of the term "circuit rider" is not so far off the mark.
As I talked with Someone in the Know about my situation last week, I mentioned having preached several times for a church whose membership is falling off and whose most faithful members tend to have white hair. What I had seen in them was a need for a pastor who will accompany them, through her preaching and teaching and pastoral care, through the challenges that we face late in life: serious illness and death, loneliness and isolation, retirement and dislocation, the joys and problems of children and grandchildren.
"But what they see," she said, "is a church losing membership and a need for an influx from younger generations. That's why so many churches want younger pastors with growing families," she continued ~ "they think that's what they need to appeal to the generation they've lost."
I've been thinking about what she said, thinking about how critically important my grandparents were in my life, thinking about how everything that strengthened them strengthened us as well, and about how much of our lives consisted of an invitation to join in theirs.
I'm not discounting the need for churches to reach out to people of all ages and walks of life. But why do we think that the young want (or need?!) the spotlight beamed on them? Might it not be also life-giving (and church building) to support the older generations in who they are and in what they have to offer?
There is a young pastor in my John of the Cross class; she has been with her first call church for three years now. She talked recently about her church having been excited about her because of her youth, and their hopes that she would be the miracle worker to revitalize them.
She is also not the first pastor to have talked with me in the past few weeks about longing to bring a more contemplative spirituality to a church congregation that equates church with programming, and spirituality with activity.
Karen mentioned that within a 24-hour span I posted both my poem/prayer a la John of the Cross and the circuit rider/circus rider humor. That's part of what I mean about the approach I am taking these days to the word integration. All part of life. A little more extreme than the other Karen's beautiful post yesterday about her cats, in which she writes calmly of the role they've played in their family's life, including in her daughter's death and illness, but the same topic. All part of life.
I think that's what the church is about as well. Integrating all of it. That integration is part of what I love about my home church, and what I hope to carry with me into another.
But not, I think,as the solo, dazzling, balancing and sparkling circus rider.
More, I think, as the person who waters and feeds and brushes. Along with everyone else.