Monday, January 23, 2012

Spirit Words

Together with pastors and churches in transition everywhere, I pray for the people of St. John's and the people of Zion and all people beloved by those who serve them, those who say goodbye and say hello.

God of courage, you are brave in working through people like us. You call neighbors and strangers together despite our shortcomings and differences, inviting us to worship and serve for the sake of something much bigger than ourselves. You pull us off our phones and laptops and garmins and things that fool us into thinking life is only about what we want. You give us words to speak in unison and they make us stronger. You give us liturgy that gets inside our bodies, becoming unforgettable, incarnational and transformational. Your are tricky and we are grateful. Lord, in your mercy...

God of grace, you have called us together as the body of Christ so our lives can get tangled up with you and tangled up with each other. You are the reason I see other people. You are the reason I care. You are the reason life is both complicated and wonderful. Thank you for getting me mixed up with your saints at St. John's. They have showed me Christ and helped me believe. Lord, in your mercy...

God of hope, as I pack up my office and make plans to move up the street, my heart is filled with dreams for this congregation I love so much. My prayers for them sound desperate and childish. I might as well end each petition with, "pretty please" because I desire all kinds of life and joy for them in the years ahead. So love them, nourish them, make them bold and help them follow you in brand new ways...pretty please. Lord, in your mercy...

God of trust, you are silly. You know I get all wound up and then I get nervous and then I get confident and then the jokes on me. Every time. Thank you for sending me up the street even though I'm scared and naive and ever so flawed. Thank you for preparing another place for me to serve and learn and grow. Thank you for the people of Zion and their fervent faith. Thank you for teasing me while you equip me, for stretching me while I try to trust. Guide us as we come together for something brand new and plenty of things old, too. Lord, in your mercy...

God of love, I'm no Simon or Andrew. I am too neurotic to drop my nets and follow immediately. Instead I discern slowly and loudly. I get bossy and worried, but then I get around to it. At some point, your call trumps all my stuff. So thank you for sticking around and being stubborn every.single.time. Thank you for chasing me like you chase Jonah and for deciding I'm good for something that has to do with your Good Something. That kind of love turns my debates and discerning into, "Sure. Why not?" Lord, in your mercy...

I commend all of these prayers and so many more into your hands because they do no good buried deep in my heart. They want out. They want to bend your holy ear. They want you to change the world or, at the very least, change me. Amen.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

It's the little things.

I warned you that I would soon post nostalgic musings about my life at St. John's. Well, here it is.

Today was my second to last Sunday there. Next weekend I'll be in Annandale with a bunch of teenagers on our winter youth retreat (God help me) and then my last Sunday is January 22. Yikes.

But today was just the kind of near-goodbye I was hoping for.

I needed someone to speak words of welcome to our new members on behalf of everyone in the pews during worship and the first person I asked agreed joyfully. Our new members showed up early, excited to join and I was able to greet them in the narthex. I remembered to put my lunch in the fridge before worship and ran into two of my favorite women in the restroom. We talked about my upcoming transition and one mentioned her great-grand baby was going to be in worship this morning. They were thinking about having her baptized sometime soon. How perfect on Baptism of Our Lord Sunday!

A second grader helped her mother prepare communion and later asked me why I hold my arms out when I pray behind the table. She's watching. Her sister let me know during the passing of the peace that the hymn boards and bulletin did not agree about which number we were about to sing. She's watching, too. I began my sermon from the pulpit, but I'll admit I saw a few people glazing over. "She's talking about baptism again," they were probably thinking. "Yeah, yeah. New beginnings. I need to remember to pick up toilet bowl cleaner at Target after this..."

So I came down and grabbed the bowl out of the font. I brought it into the aisle and got kids to help me splash people. Some of them woke up. The kids helped me show them that God tore the heavens open for each of us, as if God was saying, "There's no turning back now". God is in change and resolutions and new beginnings. God's spirit is giving us courage at every turn, transforming us and shocking us with grace. I teared up serving communion because sometimes I can tell when someone is having an especially meaningful experience with Christ through the bread and wine. And that moves me.

After worship I met a baby and caught up with a dear member I'll miss terribly. I relished a hug from Ken. It is always a firm handshake that moves into a half hug - a weekly gift from Christ I've come to need. I laughed and teased those I splashed. My stole was wet and it reminded me while I changed that God will be with me in my new beginning, too.

Members newish and old gathered in the lounge to chat with the family who joined minutes earlier. We shared about our first impressions of St. John's, what worship means to us and new connections sprouted from their stories exchanged. Then our little book club met. We talked about our most recent book and members of the group claimed the leadership it needed to continue.

I locked up the church aglow with the ways these people bear Christ to me every week. I believe in the power of church community, the body of Christ gathering weekly, because of the little things like these. They were a welcome distraction from my sick kid at home. I turned on my phone to find upchuck updates from my sorely underpaid baby daddy. I was glad to head home and relieve him, but took a long look at the corner of 49th and Nicollet before I put the car in drive. It was the last Sunday I'll lock up...and the little things made it one I won't soon forget.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Year, New Gig

I've been thinking about St. John's a lot this fall and winter. I don't know many first call Associate Pastors who truly love where they are after three and a half years. Most of my friends don't get to do a little bit of everything. Parishioners treat them like interns or junior pastors. Dynamics with senior staff can be complex and very competitive.

I had the unique opportunity to come to St. John's knowing I'd only be here for three to four years. I have a good relationship with my colleague. I like the people I serve and, while we haven't moved mountains or doubled in size, there have been many miracles together. (But more about those miracles another time. There will be a nostalgic post or two before the end of the month!)

Since I have always known that 2012 would likely bring a farewell, I started looking for a second call pretty sure about a few wonderful things:
  1. I really love being a pastor. Both internship and first call have given me a well rounded experience that reminds me everyday: I'm so glad I get to wear all these hats. I'm grateful for the interruptions in each day that turn out to be the whole point. I adore the broken church and the glorious gospel.
  2. I really love being a mom who works full time, too. Maternity leave taught me that there are many different kinds of maternal strength and it specified the ones I am sorely lacking. I'm a better mom because of my job. I'm better at my job because I love being a mom. Now I get to spend the next 30 years figuring out what that messy and beautiful balance looks like.
  3. God is calling me to be a solo pastor in a small parish. I don't know what this means for ministry beyond second call, but I look forward to being a generalist with a brand new role.
The call process is tricky, especially in the Twin Cities. Matt loves his job at the U of M so I shared my paperwork with both synods in the metro area before looking anywhere that would mean a move. Would we move? Sure, but we decided to start looking right here. I'm grateful for the many people in this process who have respect for what Matt does and understand his work to be a call as well.

I won't bore you with the details of my interviewing process - the online profile, the awkward first dates, the nerves, the prayers and the background checks of this matchmaking dance - but I fell in love. All while still loving St. John's.

I learned early in this process that interviewing when you're already happy is quite different than when your work environment is unhealthy or without challenge. I knew right away when I wasn't a good fit for a congregation or two. And when I met the call committee for Zion, I was finally torn and terrified and curious and excited. I start February 1st.

Zion has been in the Lyndale community for ages. They're tiny and scrappy and joyful and they love their neighbors with a fierce, hands-on commitment. They can't afford a full time pastor, so we're going to figure out what 3/4 time looks like. Solo. Hmm...

And yet I won't be all alone. I have great colleagues in the Twin Cities. I believe in the power of collaborative partnership between congregations and organizations. I have heard that the people of Zion are do-ers, spiritual leaders and love their pastors dearly. Matt will be supportive and Jasper will meet another village of faithful ones who will root him on as he learns to walk and believe.

Oh yeah. And there's the Holy Spirit. And that's the greatest comfort of all. I remember this when I get overwhelmed by change and fear and results and the reactions of others that I cannot control. It will not be up to me to save Zion or grow Zion or change Zion...just like it wasn't up to me to move mountains at St. John's. The Holy Spirit has gone ahead of me to 33rd and Pillsbury and will stay after me at 49th and Nicollet.

Duh. Whew. I feel better already.