Before I joined the Great Resignation, I told my congregation that I would spend the summer opening up space for the Holy Spirit to speak into my life. Six+ weeks, 9600 miles, two countries later, a week at home, and the Spirit remains coy. Though my spiritual, emotional, and physical well-being has been reset, specific answers to what’s next remain unclear.
I have discovered that when you open space for the Spirit to speak, she will teach what she chooses to teach when she chooses to teach it. Returning from my road trip, I strongly sense that I still have something big – something important – to do with my life. I am not ready for retirement.
However, I do not yet know what is next. I have thoughts and visions glimpsed through a mirror darkly, and I continue to hold space for the divine to nudge me toward that which is my sacred path. I have told many (maybe to convince myself?) that it was likely, that I would be entering the search and call process to return to congregational ministry after my pilgrimage. And, yes, returning to professional ministry is among the multiple scenarios I have played with in the Advocate’s presence (1), but certainty remains elusive.
In a previous post, I shared 9 Things I Will Not Be Doing Anymore (Part 1). Today as I await clarity, here are 3 Things I Will Not Be Doing IF I Return to Ministry that are clear.
1) As a pastor, my primary task was to help others grow in their spirituality. If I return to professional ministry, I will no longer sacrifice my spirituality and well-being for others. I will not skip prayer or meditation or care for my body to squeeze in something that can wait. I claim to follow Jesus; he left the crowds to tend to his spirituality and well-being. Seems like I should, too. If I am not whole, I cannot love fully and completely.
2) As a preacher, I tend to be outspoken, but there are many times when I hesitated or sugarcoated the teachings of Jesus. If I return to the pulpit, I will no longer hold back or sugarcoat the meaning of Jesus’ teachings to spare feelings or because I am afraid of accusations of “getting too political.” We don’t need any more faux Christians. To follow Jesus is hard work. I know it, and anyone who seriously reads the biblical text within its historical and cultural context knows it, too. I am no longer interested in helping others play at faith.
3) As a spiritual leader, I sometimes get sidetracked by the idolatry of institutionalism, buildings, and administrative systems. I have sat by silently as church boards raise and spend thousands on roofs and other physical plant needs while failing to use resources to do the same for the injured Samaritan huddling against the outside of their building without shelter. Whatever my future role, I will no longer remain silent when churches or others favor the priorities of capitalism over the teachings of Jesus and the needs of human beings. The church’s preoccupation with personal salvation distracts from helping people do the work of Jesus in the world.
These are hard to hold onto in the face of an institution laden with a history of colonialism, misogyny, racism, and other values contrary to Jesus, and that (as was true of both the early Roman Church and the church in Nazi Germany) seeks to convince the wealthy and powerful they are not a threat. If the church is not a threat to those who live off the backs of the poor and marginalized, it is not the church, and I want no part.
(1) John 14:16. The Advocate, helper, companion, or comforter is derived from the greek παράκλητον. It is used by Jesus as portrayed by the gospel writer John.