a (mostly) satisfying morning...

It was (mostly) satisfying and gratifying to be back in worship this morning. I (mostly) felt loved
and affirmed and my heart was (mostly) warmed by the renewal of my connection with most people. As one wise old salt told me, "There will always be soul vampires, James, but remember they aren't' the heart and soul of this place." And that is true: this small congregation is about joy and trust, compassion and contemplation, practicing tenderness and asking forgiveness with a creative spirit and a sacred openness. Mostly, not everyone, of course, but most everyone - and I am grateful.

I found that I was full to overflowing playing music again with Carlton and Dave. I was thrilled to see how some of the lay leadership had flourished during my absence. I was encouraged to hear how my lay leaders all agreed that this sabbatical was well planned, well executed and well received.  And I was blessed to shed a few tears with a few loved ones after worship. At a few points as the morning evolved I was reminded of this ancient joke circulated among pastors about a pastoral search committee reviewing the credentials of various characters from the Bible. I offer it to you as another part of my returning to the groove..

In our search for a suitable pastor, the following scratch sheet was developed for your perusal. Of the candidates investigated by the committee, only one was found to have the necessary qualities. The list contains the names of the candidates and comments on each, should you be interested in investigating them further for future pastoral placements.

NOAH: He has 120 years of preaching experience, but no converts.
MOSES: He stutters and his former congregation says he loses his temper over trivial things.
ABRAHAM: He took off to Egypt during hard times. We heard that he got into trouble with the authorities and then tried to lie his way out.
DAVID: He is an unacceptable moral character. He might have been considered for minister of music had he not 'fallen.'
SOLOMON: He has a reputation for wisdom but fails to practice what he preaches.
ELIJAH: He proved to be inconsistent and is known to fold under pressure.
HOSEA: His family life is in a shambles. Divorced, and remarried to a prostitute.
JEREMIAH: He is too emotional, alarmist; some say a real 'pain in the neck.'
AMOS: Comes from a farming background. Better off picking figs.
JOHN: He says he is a Baptist but lacks tact and dresses like a hippie. Would not feel comfortable at a church potluck supper.
PETER: Has a bad temper and was heard to have even denied Christ publicly.
PAUL: We found him to lack tact. He is too harsh, his appearance is contemptible and he preaches far too long.
TIMOTHY: He has potential, but is much too young for the position.
JESUS: He tends to offend church members with his preaching, especially Bible scholars. He is also too controversial. He even offended the search committee with his pointed questions.
JUDAS: He seemed to be very practical, co-operative, good with money, cares for the poor, and dresses well. We all agreed that he is just the man we are looking for to fill the vacancy as our Senior Pastor.

Thank you for all you have done in assisting us with our pastoral search.

Pastoral Search Committee chairman

Comments

Barbara Barkley said…
It sounds from your posts that returning, while there has been joy, has also been a real challenge. I just want to say that I am grateful to be reading your writing again, grateful that you are out there doing ministry (whatever that looks like in each day as it unfolds), and grateful for your Spirit. I can't imagine how hard it would be to return from Sabbatical. I just simply can't imagine. In nineteen years of ministry, I have never been blessed by that time away, mostly because I have changed ministry jobs just at the point when a sabbatical would have been possible. I worry, honestly, that if I were to take that time away, I would never be able to get myself to come back... So I am grateful to hear your story, to follow the pieces of your journey that you share, and to watch how that unfolds for you. Blessings to you, my friend, as you walk this path for all of us watching, waiting, listening and learning.
RJ said…
That is exactly right, Barbara. Thank you for your encouraging words about writing and presence. As I wrestle this one through, it will be out there for review. I find it both necessary for my own soul to see what I'm thinking, and, valuable for me to get reactions and feedback (whether supportive or lovingly critical.) It has been - and will be - excruciating to return in some ways. And I truly wonder if I am not entering a phase of realization that my ministry in the local church is over. Not just this faith community, but parish ministry in general. There is a profound ambivalence. But for now, for ethical and loving reasons, I am trying to figure out a way to do this differently (as other postings have suggested.) I get clues that it is possible and then experience unsettling roadblocks, too. So... onward. Sending love and gratitude to you.

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