Rural Church on Cape Breton Island found at: http://tripwow.tripadvisor.com/slideshow-photo/rural-church-on-cape-breton-island-alma-canada.html?sid=10002142&fid=tp-5490891
I found out last November that I would be leaving Pontiac First United Methodist Church as they began the process of getting their budget in line and eliminated my position. Since then, and especially after we announced that I would be moving, I have been asking myself a lot of questions about where my gifts and liabilities lie and I’ve been pondering what sort of church setting would be “right” for me.
As you might imagine, there is a lot of anxiety as you wait for the Bishop to make a decision about where to send you, especially when you are one half of a clergy couple, as I am. I mean, what affects me also affects my wife’s career in a big way. Well, here I have been; waiting…and pondering…and filled with anxiety and I, then, suddenly found myself at peace this week.
What happened last weekend? Did I get answers? No. Did I have a revelation about my gifts for ministry? No. Did I realize where the perfect church might be? Nope. None of the above.
First of all, I thought about all of the people who don’t have jobs and that put my job security in perspective. I have a job. That is not a small thing these days! I thought about the way, in some other denominations, pastors have to find their own jobs and I realized that my wife and I could be sending applications out trying to find a magical place where we could be in ministry within driving distance of one another. What a headache that would be.
More importantly, I put my trust in the Bishop and cabinet. Oh, now, I’m not overly idealistic about our system and I know its not perfect…yet as I’ve begun to look at the churches that are opening up on my conference’s website, I realize that I cannot know which church would provide me an opportunity to stretch my legs, I don’t know the churches well enough to know where I might be effective in ministry and helpful to that church, and I would be at a loss to know which churches would be supportive and nurturing to a young, new pastor like me.
A peace came over me when I realized that there were people who may actually know something about these churches and, because my District Superintendent has spent time with me, I realized there is a Bishop and cabinet that know something about me.
There are people who are looking over these churches and my fellow clergy and I and they see a bigger picture. They aren’t infallible and they don’t always get it right, but I was able to let go of some anxiety. Also, I simply realized that I have no control over the situation. Hey, there’s no reason to hold onto anxiety when one has no control over the situation. But most importantly, I looked back on my ministry, so far, and I thought about the people with whom I have done ministry. No matter where I was: Northern Wisconsin, Southern Illinois or the NorthShore of Chicago I found good ministry. Not because I -or the church- was perfect, but because churches are a place of people and God.
Each community and the church I served in that community was filled with people who were yearning to love and be loved. Rev. Victor Long used to say, when I worked with him in Marion, “I’ve never had to convince a person that they were a dirty rotten sinner” but it is surprisingly hard to convince people that God really loves them.
People everywhere need to know they are loved and can, themselves, be freed to act with love. Each church has possibilities for great ministry: from the smallest country church to the largest ‘mega’ church. Eventually my appointment will be announced and I will have new anxiety about different questions, but, for now, I’m going to trust the United Methodist Church, try not to think about it, and find peace that great ministry can happen wherever I might go.