For the last little while, I’ve been some version of what you might call bi-vocational. It partly started with a note from Doug over at Fulton United Church of Christ. One of their regular preachers had taken a job and wasn’t able to continue her first, third, and fifth Sunday pulpit supply. “I was wondering,” wrote Doug, “if you would be able to help us on any of those times, and if so, when could you start?”
I’m not very good at making firm decisions. It’s hard for me to close off possibilities and even harder to think I might be letting someone (or a community of someones) down in the process. I had to talk to a few folks from my church. I’m one of the elders there, which means I take my turn taking communion to the home bound and presiding at the communion table with the pastor and delivering the offering invitation, among a few other things. Despite my worries, the church folks granted me their grace to take this additional call, and so I did.
I started in February, mostly knowing what I was getting into. The small and relatively progressive church in this town of 12,000 has between 12 – 20 in worship on a given Sunday. Easter attendance exploded to a vibrant 43, but despite their persistent desire for evangelism, their current environment doesn’t seem to have much in the way of growth.
During worship folks spread themselves across the pews in their usual spots in the blessedly small sanctuary. The faithful come, as some of them have been coming for over fifty years. The musician comes and splits his time between piano and organ on all but the third Sundays. We take communion and then commune for a potluck on the first. I preach at a lectern on the floor, my microphone connected to stereo speakers in the back, which sit directly underneath the large stained glass Jesus who stares me down each time I speak. After six months, I know most everyone’s name. And that’s about it.
Pastoral care: nope. Lunches and dinners in homes: not with these folks. Council meetings and 125th anniversary planning: not for me. Creative worship ideas: mostly regulated to the realm of readers theaters with participants recruited five minutes before the service begins. (I should say we have some excellent readers among the faithful twelve.)
I’ve quickly learned that it’s one thing to serve a church you know and entirely another to show up every other week to preach and pray. In fact, it’s a bit muddled for me, not participating in the larger life and vision of a place to which I am supposed to bring the good news.
To be honest, there are times I wish I could insert myself, lend a voice and a hand to the tenor and identity of this place, but it’s just not what I’m called to do. At least not here.