Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to talk with someone who is entering the process that leads to ordination. We talked about our callings, our hopes for the future, and the nature of the church's ministry. We laughed together. We prayed together. We talked about how frustrating it can be to be a pastor but most of all about how much life comes with this vocation. It is a privilege to be a pastor.
On Sunday morning, I did one of the things I love most. We have started a practice at Mount Vernon Place where two lay people serve the bread and the cup while the pastor and the intern are available to lay hands on people and pray for them. This part of the service is now my favorite. It has been holy ground to stand and pray for people - praying for new jobs and new babies, for broken relationships and broken promises, for job prospects and housing prospects. I have learned so much about the people I serve through this practice. It is a privilege to be a pastor.
And then today I received an email from a member of our congregation. It is one of those emails that tell you even more what a privilege it is to be a pastor. With permission, I include a portion of this email here:
I also had a bit of a revelation last night regarding faith and religion. My small group watched 'The Bible Tells Me So' and I was reminded of all that drove me from attending church, the prominent conservative evangelical Christians that judge and condemn more than love and serve. I have been so worried that if I proclaim my faith and embrace Christianity, I will be confused for one of them. But it seems to me that I am running from a calling, a calling to represent another way to be Christian, another way to have a relationship with God. The easy path would be to leave organized religion and berate it for being intolerant and exclusive. The difficult path is to stand up for one's faith and beliefs and demonstrate what it means for one to be a tolerant and loving Christian community. And lastly, I am scared of truly embracing my faith, because I think deep down I know that it will radically transform me, and that's frightening. Again, it's easier just to think that I am already a changed person, that I am already doing all I can to be in service to others, that I am already working hard to live like Jesus. I think I'm on the cusp, and I don't know how long I will be here, but I don't think I can step back from this edge. It's just a matter of time before I take the plunge.
This email comes from someone with whom I have been able to journey - telling the individual that it is okay to doubt some parts of our faith - that it is okay to be frustrated with the church - that it is okay to have all of these feelings and still come anyway. The person has kept on coming. The person has joined the church. And, the person's life is being transformed. This person's email captures my vision for this church - a radically open place for all of God's children - a place that practices Christianity instead of Churchianity - a place that is tired of being just another church but instead wants to be a sign - a real sign of how the Kingdom of God is at hand - a place where the blind receive their sight, the lame leap, the poor have good news proclaimed to them and the oppressed are set free. I love standing on the edge with this person. Like her, I am often scared of all the risky places where Jesus leads us - but I have found taking the plunge to be better than anything else I have ever done.
It is a privilege to be a pastor.