Monday, October 25, 2010

What a pastor does

Somedays, I have thoughts that focus on how I spend my time. This morning, was such a time as I reflected on the day to come and the past several days. The thoughts were something like: I spend so much of my time networking that I often don’t feel like a churchy person. From Tuesday through Friday, it seems as though all I did was go to meetings, meet people, even meet some new people and put a check in the mental “networking” box that accounts for my time. Other boxes to check should include “evangelizing” and “pastoring” though in truth it would difficult to compartmentalize these activities.

This morning’s reflection, however, reminded me that after Friday Saturday and Sunday were all spent pastoring or evangelizing. Saturday, as usual, I finished researching the scripture and wrote the sermon (“Lord, It’s Hard to be Humble” from Luke 18:9-14) and pulled together the Sunday worship bulletin, found a worship leader (you think that Saturday is a bit late for that?), copied music that our musician had requested, practiced the sermon and rewrote what I thought needed changing, then went to a dinner at the local university so that I could, perhaps, meet a few new people who are part of the university (and eat a delicious meal at the same time), then went to the first half of a musical program, came home and finished up for Sunday. Went to bed at 11PM. Alternating between each of these, I cut up and cooked bacon for Sunday’s Fourth Sunday Supper.

Early Sunday morning, I got up, showed and dressed, ate something then left for church in Mansfield allowing sufficient time for a stop at the local grocery to pick up communion bread and grapes and The New York Times for our discussion over coffee. On my way to church, after the grocery stop, the worship leader texted me that she was ill and would not be coming. At church, the fire detector was talking loudly to me, so I fiddled with it - it could not need a battery since it is hard wired. Just about 9AM, I asked another congregation member to be worship leader and she agreed - first time ever. About 9:45, I tried to collect myself so that I could be ready for worship at 10AM. Forgot the children’s message until time to think of it just before the sermon. Since I do a children’s version of the gospel for them, it generally is not too difficult. The kids make this part of worship a special joy.

After worship, I collected my thoughts and drove back to Wellsboro and prepared for the inaugural gathering of Soul Link Too - a different worship service designed to attract the seekers who live in Wellsboro but don’t travel to Mansfield. That began at 1:30 - with ending time at 3:00. Only one person came, but I have committed myself to six months, so we will see what happens for the next several months. At 3:00 I drove back to Mansfield for Fourth Sunday Supper - where I act as pastor and visit with many people. This month, the church served 78 people. The menu was baked potatoes with all the trimmings. By the time all cleanup was finished and I drove home, I fell onto the couch in time to stare at the TV and see who was eliminated from The Amazing Race. It was 12 hours since I had left that morning.

Today, I spent most of my day reading: the final section of Chopra’s The Third Jesus, read a few chapters of a fund raising book aimed at the church, did some preliminary work for a three-week session on the Enneagram scheduled for three weeks in November, and outlined the agenda for our board meeting on Thursday. A bit of the morning was a meeting with one congregation member who has access to pumpkins for pumpkins carving next Sunday evening.

Looking back, each of those are pastoral. No pastoral work can happen unless there are people, unless there is the church, unless there is preparation. None were huge weddings, and thankfully, no funerals; other deep listening opportunities cannot be counted as actual counseling, but each have their role in today’s church as they always have. Some make me feel great, and a few not so good. Worship statistics can be discouraging when only 24 fill the pews; however, church reaches so far beyond the walls that those in the pews receive one type of pastoral attention and those who did not make it to the church but made it to another place where they looked to me as their pastor found another type of pastoral attention.

So, I guess I am a pastor. A pastor who is planting a church. Occasionally I need to remind myself about this.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Big Bertha

Yesterday I had a medical appointment - one of those these four (or five or six) tests could save your life. I thought I would go just in case I have a problem that would not be discovered during a routine exam. The advertising also said: “Ask your doctor ....” I did not, but just signed up and went. 12:05. Left the house a full hour before my appointment so I could get there early. Took my Nook just in case I had time to wait.

Well, there was no waiting at the church hall where the exams were being conducted. Mostly because I got behind a huge piece of equipment that was going down the very same road as I. How inconvenient. It had opportunity to turn so I could speed on my way, but it did not turn until I was almost at my destination.

As I drove slowly, very slowly, behind this piece of equipment I wondered whether moving it had the same ramifications here in Pennsylvania as one I saw in Ohio. In the southeastern corner of the state, there was a huge piece of mining equipment (called Big Bertha by community residents) that changed the lives of those living in one county when it moved across the street going into the county or out of it. If it moved in, property taxes went down. When the work of this huge piece of equipment was finished, it moved across the street impoverishing the losing county and helping the county tax base of the receiving county.

Would that happen locally as this piece of equipment moved from one township to another or would there be any discernible difference? I hope that our Borough would benefit because the Borough of Wellsboro sure could use a shot in the tax base. Our water system is lacking routine maintenance and because of the deferred maintenance, we are under a boil water advisory for the immediate future - December? January? Longer?

Apparently those who had lived in the borough for some time were called and told to boil. I was not one of them. Until I opened the paper two weeks ago, I lived in peaceful oblivion. I turned on the tap, water flowed in. Turned it off, water went away. That was then, this is now: boil all water for washing dishes, drinking, brushing teeth, cooking food. What a pain for this big city girl.

Living without reminds me that I don’t live without very much and except for not spending money on myself for this six months (and what I count as “myself” is broad) I get what I “need” and even what I “want.”

Sometimes I know that when Jesus said to leave everything and follow him then I might not be in ministry because I am not so good at doing without. Perhaps he meant give up the easy things, not the necessities, and follow me. Could he really have meant get water from a well or even boil town water? Would he accept me for giving up those things that are easy: extra chocolate, movies?

What have been Big Bertha’s in my life - computer access, up-to-date electronic access, natural gas heat a garage for my car and yes, clean water? Though I rarely name them, when any of them go away, I feel deprived.

Amazing what an hour of slow driving can do to one's mind.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The importance of little things

Last Monday night I attended the Community Concert at the Wellsboro High School auditorium. It was a delightful hour and a half featuring music from the 1970s. The audience was involved in some parts, clapping, singing “uh-ah,” dancing. A fun evening.

Even as I sat watching, I thought of the work of cleaning up after. Since moving to Wellsboro I have spent some volunteer time working for the local community theatre. I started out auditioning for a part and (luckily for me) decided that rather than having a part on stage, being involved in backstage was more my talent. The decision led me to be Assistant Director cum Stage Manager for Witness for the Prosecution” co-director for two one act plays and gofer for a few others. The learnings were great including the critical part of replacing each part of a set in exactly the same place as it was last night and is required to be tomorrow night. I have a desk that is piled high with stacks, but I can find everything I want. That does not work if tomorrow the stage is being struck by a person who is at home tonight. Being able to pick up a wire and place it in the right place the first time, saves time, worry and stage meltdowns.

This striking of the set is part of my job as solo pastor in this small church. Each Sunday, I put on a one-act play for anyone who comes in the door. No reservations required. Before the play, I get the sound system turned on, get the worship bulletins set out, fix up the coffee accouterments, assure myself that communion bread is defrosted. All that on Sunday morning after a weekend of getting the script prepared for the bulletin and my soliloquy (called a sermon) designed to inspire the congregation to go out from our little church into the world as Jesus-people.

I am reminded of the values of replaced every wire on a set to make life easier for the next stage crew and what happens when my “set” is not properly cared for. Two weeks ago, I rushed into church, got sound turned on, communion ready, checked the pews to be sure they were cleaned up from last week and went out to have a before-church discussion of contemporary subjects. Among the things I should have done was to check my own copy of the bulletin so that I could open the huge pulpit Bible to the appropriate scripture. I skipped that step and later discovered that the worship leader - substituting for the worship leader who was ill - read the previous week’s scripture. I preached on this week’s scripture. A huge disconnect that I realized when the reader was reading. Fortunately, the congregation cuts me lots of slack. We laughed a bit about the mix up and went on. You can be sure that the next week, I made sure everything was ready for that morning.

I berate myself by saying I should get to church a bit earlier, but I am already there two hours ahead of time. I could blame or beat myself up. Or, I can do for myself what I would do for anyone else who made that mistake: remind myself that the only perfect person died about 2000 years ago. We all make mistakes. Life goes on.

I don’t want to make the same mistake again. Make mistakes I will. I hope they are of this less-serious variety and I can laugh at them and at myself.