Monday, October 28, 2013

Small Church Small Church

A few weeks ago I told Professor Who Preached at My Ordination that I was at my wit's end.  I will never have the kind of career trajectory that younger pastors might have once expected (of course, these days, they probably won't either): small church, larger church, tall steeple church.  If I am lucky, I will have another decade in active parish ministry, after which I intend to do spiritual direction, lead retreats, write something-or-other, and take my grandchildren to the beach (the last being the activity of primary importance). 
I just wanted to find a way to make the most of this decade in whatever form it takes.
And so I spent a lot of time in prayer of the most restless and haphazard sort, and talked to some churches, and observed my own church and what I was doing there, and drove about a million miles (seriously, my car is going to require some major recovery time).  And now, in a month, I will become the pastor of a small church in an inner ring suburb, a church with no children or youth, no choir, and an income largely produced by building rental rather than church stewardship.  A church which has accomplished a lot in the way of self-reflection over the past three years and is poised for . . . the future.
Task 1: Re-watch all the episodes of the wonderful British series Rev.
This church will require of all my creativity and ingenuity, but if offers me the opportunity to serve a church and its local community in ways that have been impossible in my current situation, with my congregation located one and one-half hours from my home.    It's a ministry that will enable me to resettle into my own house (a mess), be around as my children settle into adult relationships and careers (fascinating, to put it very mildly), perhaps help my husband retire, and re-connect with neighbors and friends.
I am planning to steal a page from the Benedictines for the next decade.  Benedictine monks and nuns take a vow of stability in addition to the usual vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, and I am much focused on stability these days.  Stability has not been a feature of the last six years of my life, and I know better than anyone not to bother with predictions for even the next five minutes, but I am going to do everything possible to hold high the ideals of stability of place and community and focus for the next ten years. 

Most especially where my church is concerned.
Then can we please move to the ocean?


  1. Well you could move to Lakewood, Rocky River or even Euclid now!

  2. How about adding one more thing to your list of tasks to accomplish....write a book. I've been reading back through your blogs (Desert Year and Search the Sea). Your writing is powerful and your journey is written in a way that other bereaved parents might want to read and reread and hold in their hands in book form (or on a Kindle in my case ).

    Your insights and observations are very meaningful and helpful to me and I'm sure they are to others as well. That would be a form of ministry to a community that so many of us have unwillingly and unexpectedly joined.

    1. Thank you for this, GFIMH. I have worked and worked on that project. Publishers do not think that they can sell a book about this experience, unless I alter the perspective/approach. I am pondering.

  3. I disagree with them. Those publishers have not lost children, if they had, they would be begging for your book. Your writing is very thoughtful and reflective and would be appreciated by many people.

    By the way, did you graduate from Brown (you've mentioned Providence before)? I was just wondering since I graduated from Brown in 1976 (whoa ...did I say that?!). I also lived in Cleveland, OH from 1978 - 1983. I still have family there.

    1. I think the problem is suicide, not the death of a child. One of the publishers I've talked with has in fact just published a book on faith and the death of a baby Suicide -- and the illness that would lead someone to self-destruct -- and the insanity that follows -- tough subjects to market. In fact, just an hour ago I had a conversation with someone who was trying to explain why her organization did not support our suicide prevention walk -- I suggested stigma, she insisted development office miscommunication -- but I noticed that she repeatedly used euphemisms like "that topic" even as she acknowledged that it's an important one to discuss.

  4. Brown '76 as well! And Cleveland ever since.