Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Musings on Ministry

This morning The Questing Parson writes about an encounter with a young almost-pastor and his counsel to her with respect to her first assignment, for which she has grand hopes of growth in numbers.  “Slow the decline and then work on increasing the membership.”

Last Sunday, as occasionally happens, a visitor new to our church made a complimentary remark as to the accuracy of what she had heard about me.  As I thanked her, I looked around wondering, "So where is everyone?"  Word of mouth has not translated into numbers.  Not, I realize, that the numbers are about me.  And I'm trying to focus on depth rather than breadth, something which has been noticed (without prodding from me) by our leadership ~ but, naturally, I am aware of the quantitative element.

Meanwhile, my friend Michelle, who is chemistry professor and contemplative, and a published writer on both, is developing a writer's website.  I've just posted a comment on her FB page, stating that "I love the juxtaposition of the worn and battered composition books with the technology of the site -- reflective of your unique personal blend of contemplative and chemist. It evokes both Marie Curie and Thomas Merton gone contemporary in venue. (And you may recall that my 11th grade writing teacher instructed us that we were forbidden to use the word "unique" unless it applied, which situation was highly unlikely to occur. Here, finally, it does.)"

And now I ponder the connection, a matter which I've begun to process only recently.

Back in my Methodist (Questing Parson's milieu) days, I was a young attorney, struggling to make sense of the demands of my profession  in the context of a new and wobbly Christian faith.   In retrospect, it's clear that I had embarked, determinedly but without guidance, on a path toward a contemplative orientation.  Even when I asked as directly as I could (and I hasten to clarify that I did not know how to articulate the questions I had  or what it was that I was seeking), no assistance was forthcoming from pastors or congregational leaders.

I find myself wondering more and more frequently whether, if someone had been able to point the way, I would still be both a Methodist and a practicing attorney.  If I had been able to integrate both dimensions of my life, would I now be sharing my legal expertise as a leader in the United Methodist Church,  as does a Presbyterian friend with great generosity and care, and offering retreats and spiritual direction to my professional colleagues, as does a Catholic lawyer I know?

And what, exactly, is the connection between depth versus breadth and offering a doorway into the contemplative life in the context of the everyday?  I know; it seems obvious.  But in practice, a good deal more difficult than it looks.

I have been ordained exactly seven months today.  I suppose I am not required to have it all figured out yet.


  1. Your post has caused much thought in the space of only a few seconds. Neither do I want to take over your blog with my thoughts nor do I want to miss the window of pleasant (well almost) weather for a run this morning.

    What is important? Where is growth?

    1. Then go and run and return to write - here!

  2. Robin, I too wonder about my own spiritual journey which seems to have taken some strange turns before bringing me to the place where I am today. It is the journey that is important as well as the amazing people whom we are privileged to meet along the way - even over the internet and I want you to know that I have benefitted so much from your insights. We don't have to walk the same journey to learn from each other and God is so generous when God directs us to others who have the wisdom to know what to share and how to share with others. Thank you & God bless.

    1. Lynda, when are you going to start a blog???

    2. I am honoured that you would make that suggestion but I am certainly not gifted in that way. I am better at reading other people's treasures.

  3. Robin, I spent a lot time in my ministry talking about, teaching and preaching, "depth and breadth" of spirituality not "numbers." I think of depth and breadth as being multi-dimensional spirituality - not just one way - building on the Christian practices of faith. Then my hope is that some of the spiritual discipline and practices will feel organic, grow roots and enliven the people/place. Here music seems to be a place of great spirituality, and to my surprise, Bible study (or at least I think, we'll see if people keep coming to new classes). No doubt numbers are important to a degree, but they can't be the most important or the only important - just a side effect of the spiritual life that has been enlivened within.

    Good for you, becoming known in the community. And congratulations on the 7 months!

  4. Robin - maybe you'd be a Catholic. :)

    I'm kidding!!

    You are so exactly where you are supposed to be .... and how refreshing and wonderful to read about a pastor willing to not only acknowledge these types of questions, but to put them out there, trusting and knowing that the answers are nothing to be afraid of.

    In my small church home we have a truly delightful, spiritual, engaging and friendly priest. He is a wonderful blend of conservativism and generosity. I don't know why we don't have thousands of families rather than the mere 200.

    I do get some comfort from the psalm that says a thousand years are like a day to you, O God. Because it is in God's time that these shifts and changes happen. Not in mine!

    Happy 7 months. :)

  5. I hope that being ordained has been what you hoped, at least in part.

    I think I would enjoy being part of a congregation that aimed to find a contemplative life through the doorway of every day. The thought makes me smile even as I know from my present experience of Ignatious's Exercises that it is not a simple or clear cut path.

  6. Let it unfold into the mystery, at least that is what a Jesuit told me. ;')