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Archive for December, 2009

Boarderline Introvert

Yes, that’s me. On the Myers-Briggs Scale I’m INFP, but just into the introvert. Sometimes I get energy from being with people and sometimes I just need to be alone. Today made me think about how much I enjoyed greeting people as they were entering or leaving church. Especially when you’ve known people long enough to be able to ask how this is and how’d that go and how is your relative/new job/favorite sports team, etc. And then there were the people you could always count on for a positive word of  “we’re glad you’re here, that prayer really touched me, I enjoyed your communion meditation” or even just a nonsense greeting like “snowflakes and candy canes!”

You’d think that since I’m not working this December that I would have done Christmas cards. I’ve thought about it. I really want to do it. I want to say thank you to all those folks who sent cards and made calls and gave me a hug when they saw me at the grocery store, but I’m just not quite sure what to say. I want to tell them the truth, but I don’t want them to hurt anymore than they are. I suppose I should just say thank you for your support. I want to say “I’m sorry for disappointing you.” “I miss you.” “How is your (fill in the blank)?” “What can I pray for you?” “This is Christ’s body, broken for you.”

In my 17 years in ministry this is the first Advent/Christmas that I have not been serving in some kind of ministry. I’ve always either been in a congregation, ecumenical agency or denominational ministry. I’m at a loss because I don’t know what to be doing if it isn’t church work. I suppose it will be better when we finally leave town and head to my parents’ house. I haven’t been at Christmas Eve in my home church since 2001. Not that long ago really, but in those days I was a denominational person and didn’t have to worry about a congregation because I was one of the congregation. But this time it’s different. I’m not part of a congregation; I’ve been cast out. Not by the congregation, but by a small group from the congregation. How do I not be in a place where I know the majority of the people wish I was there?

There seems to be a silent, but growing problem in our church of younger clergy being pushed out by older clergy who feel threatened. Or is there something I’m missing? One peer suggested part of the problem is that younger clergy have been taught teamwork while the older generation was not. But there’s also natural leadership style and personality. Add to that the lack of understanding of laity for the clergy role and that we are all speaking the same terms without clarifying the definition of the terms. What do you mean when you say “team ministry”?

Christmas. It’s coming. I want it, but I’m not really ready. I long to go stand in the midst of the chancel at my former church, look up at the window of Jesus and have him step down and take me in his arms and tell me it’s gonna be all right. “Look ahead! I’ve got something in mind just for you. Be patient. It will come at just the right time.”

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It’s been a month since I blogged, which makes it almost 6 weeks since I was forced to resign. I haven’t been in a church since then. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to. Things have come up. There was the first Sunday where we couldn’t very well go anywhere because the announcement was being made at my former church. Then there was the Sunday before I left for my doctor’s appointment. I had to pack, right? And the following week; well, I got in very late and had to pick up the children and my husband was out of town. We just couldn’t do it. Then there was Thanksgiving and a trip to the in-laws and we were driving home on Sunday. The next week we were getting ready for the party for the students and had to clean the house. And last Sunday, well, I just wasn’t sure where to go or who to go with. I feel like I need to visit a place first before I take my kids. And, well, as a pastor most of the time you don’t get to visit other churches on Sundays, so I’d kind of like to go a different place every week. Then there’s the thought that I might just find a church I really like and I wouldn’t want to go anywhere else.

And when I do get around to going somewhere, I think I’d like to go outside my denomination. Nothing against my colleagues, I just find it helpful to be in the wider Christian body sometimes. And right now I tend to wake up on Sunday morning thinking about my previous church, imaging worship going on without me and wondering what went so horribly wrong. And then I ache and it hurts to be away from the body of Christ. It wasn’t so bad at first. There was the relief of not having to watch my back all the time. There are no evening meetings. There are no deadlines. I don’t have to rush so much and I get to nap. And it’s Advent.

I need the church at Advent. I don’t do it well enough alone. I’m still praying. I got the creche out and put the tree up, but I just can’t seem to get into the rhythm without the Church. My mind only marks time in the passing of church events that I was planning: Hanging of the Greens; Youth group adopt an angel shopping; The Service of Solace for those who are grieving; Caroling to shut-ins; Sunday School lessons; Worship.

On weekdays I drive by the church two to six times each day. I recognize the cars parked out front. I sometimes see church people driving through town, at the grocery store or the coffee shop (I’ve only been there once since I was let go).  I see people at college events and dinners and parties. It’s awkward not knowing exactly what to say to people. I want to be genuine without giving away too much. I want to be caring without being too pastoral. I want to be natural when others are feeling ill-at-ease because they don’t know what to say to me.

I imagine that somehow there is a story of reconciliation, of healing and forgiveness. That this small town will become one of those stories you see on tv or in a movie. I want to believe that with God all things are possible, but at the same time I see how impossible humans can be. It is Advent and I am definitely waiting. Waiting and wondering how Savior will come my way and point me in the direction of the bright star.

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