Several years ago, I received a “call” from a church in a small town in Colorado. The church called a part time pastor and offered a parsonage for the pastor. I could be that pastor if I chose. The minister who offered me the position said about this call: “I’d be there the weekends, then get out of Dodge every week” (i.e., return to Denver). As I listened to him offer this advice, I thought how cold and calculating: get out of Dodge every week. I do not know if he was using it as a piece of practical advice on how to live in a small town, or if he was being cynical.
Over the past 19 months, I have had time – lots of it – to reflect on that advice. Two weeks ago, I realized that I needed to “get out of Dodge” myself for a few days. So, I signed up for a conference that not only takes me away, but also offers some learning at the same time. I am so committed to being away, that I am more than willing to pay for the whole of it myself.
Yesterday, in the afternoon mail I received an invitation to “get out of Dodge” to attend a conference in Kentucky scheduled for mid-May. The offer was open to the first 50 registrants. I did not take time to complete the application and send it snail-mail. Instead, within minutes of receiving this mail, I was on the computer, registering online. “Get out of Dodge” another way. I hope I was one of the first 50 though others may have had the same drive to get away as I.
These reflections strike me as interesting. First, I wonder why I am not worthy to just take a few days off – after all, I work 60+ hours each week and rarely have more than one day off. I know of no one employed who has a full benefits package that includes only one day off. Second, I ponder why I forget that a healthy pastor is the greatest gift I can give the church. As I strive to plant a healthy church, a healthy way of life for the planter (me) seems imperative. I am entitled to four weeks of vacation per year and days off each week and holidays that I never find extra time to take. It is time to re-evaluate.
Therefore, in mid-April (confirmed) I will be in Rochester participating in a Interfaith Understanding Conference that will be like no other I have attended because all participants are invited to bring cell phones, cameras, laptop computers, and specifically invited to Tweet, Twittr and Facebook during the sessions (the audience interested in this social networking is younger than I, though the audience in general is not). In mid-May (fingers crossed), I will be in Louisville KY being ministered to by ministers - experienced church planters - who understand the total absorption required for this calling. I know I can plan on three days in June – a required UCC conference – and three days in July – a required DOC conference – and all of August is vacation. As I count the above, I see five opportunities to take care of me and return healthier each time. My very wise former spiritual director used to continually remind me that the church could make it without me for a few days because God will be in charge. Seems like God is offering opportunities to take over and I am gladly accepting!