There are certain life markers and statistics that make me feel old: my ninth wedding anniversary is coming up, as is my tenth college reunion; I have high school friends with four kids. But the most remarkable one of these facts is this: I’m only 30, but I’ve already been a pastor in two denominations.
Riding my bike from my daughter’s day care, I keep thinking about how to deal with our longing for each other. It’s intertwined with my feeling of guilt. I still can’t fully accept that I feel so much better working full time than part time.
I know that she is very happy at the day care. She loves her friends there; she’s having fun and learning things that I never could teach her. But still. When I leave on Sunday mornings, she asks me, “Why do you work today? Why do you work when I’m off?” The only answer I can give is: “Because I’m a priest, darling. That’s how priests work.” Sometimes she clings to me and asks me not to leave. That’s when I leave my bleeding heart on the floor, loosen her little fingers as gently as possible, and cry all the way to work.
This month we feature the photography of Elizabeth Marie Melchionna. Her work appears below the fold.
A few weeks ago, my better half ended up in the hospital for four days. His appendix burst in the middle of the night, and, as he is prone to doing, he was being tough. All of this resulted in the fact that we didn’t really get him to the hospital as quickly as we should have. Still, it all worked out as well as could reasonably be expected. They got him into surgery, fixed him up, and sent him home as quickly as they could, given the moderate risk of infection with a burst appendix.
It was scary and stressful, and I’m still not over the shock of realizing he and I might not be invincible after all. It was also the first time that I have been on the receiving end of my congregation’s big-hearted approach to pastoral care. I’m still reeling over how strange and wonderful that felt.
This dramatic reading is a re-imagining of two of Abraham’s wives—Sarah and Hagar. It attempts to both respect and conflate the various interpretations of each woman in Jewish, Christian and Muslim religions, and among the African-American community. The women are trying to explain their historical lives, understand their present identities, and the connections between the two. The beginning and end should have a serious tone, while the middle sections are more conversational, as if they are figuring things out along with us.
It was originally performed by Elsa Peters and Stacy Smith at Union Theological Seminary in New York City in May 2006.
As my first year of seminary drew to a close, my friends and I decided that we needed to commemorate our survival of a particularly difficult class. We kicked around several ideas, and ultimately we voted to raise a glass and take in the vocal stylings of some local “talent.” In other words, we were going to a neighborhood dive for karaoke night.
You are now reading into a moment when this minister wishes there was no church at all, so that she could enjoy a Saturday night like everyone else.
Tonight I wrote a sermon in the midst of a party I could not attend.
I live in the heart of downtown Indianapolis, a city that is currently teeming with the excitement of both St. Patrick’s Day weekend and the Big 10 Basketball Tournament. I actually live across the street from Conseco Fieldhouse, where the tournament is being held. I didn’t really choose this location because I love basketball, but for the energy and excitement of downtown life. I moved into this building so it would be easy to meet people and have fun. After living in New York City for three years, I was not too excited about biding my two-year fellowship in a garden apartment in the suburbs where I knew no one. So I opted for a choice location right in the middle of it all. Indianapolis is actually a pretty great city, and has a good downtown. I can walk to Nordstrom’s and the Indy Repertory Theater and Sushi on the Rocks. I live next door to a rowdy dueling piano bar. The bartenders know my drink and I have met some great people in my building.
Ministry is a high calling: a cliché, but also true. We have the joy and privilege of being present at the milestone events of life—births, weddings, deaths—what some of us call “hatch, match and dispatch” in our cheeky moments. One of the practical things I learned in seminary was this: when the call comes that a parishioner has died, hang up the phone, take out the calendar, and cancel any non-essential commitments for the next several days. The pastoral care and funeral are now the priorities. Then turn to the following year’s calendar and write a reminder to contact the family: “anniversary of Rose’s death—call her daughter.”
Tending to one’s calendar seems like a mundane activity in the midst of the emotional upheaval of a death—and it is. And yet our ministries are full of such moments. Yes, ours is a lofty calling, but we still need to get things done. There are plenty of urgent and important matters in ministry (death of a church member). Others are not urgent, but deeply important (our own self-care). Still other issues are merely urgent, but not important (insert your own example here). How do we organize our lives so as to make the best use of our time, while providing flexibility to respond to needs as they arise?