Tuesday, April 29, 2008

This 'n' That 'n' Church Chat

Lots of stuff I've been meaning to talk about, but haven't. Here we go.

My Car

It is a 2007 Chevy Malibu. I like it, I think, though part of me is waiting for something huge and bad to go wrong. See, according to Carfax, it has been in an accident, which is why I got a really good deal on it. I honestly couldn't find a thing wrong with it on the lot, though, and it runs really nice. (I've since discovered through a whole lot of detective work that the driver's side front door was replaced. If you weren't looking for it, though, you would never be able to tell.) The loan I got is very, very subprime (the interest rate is about 4.5% higher than I was expecting), but I figure if I pay faithfully on it for a year or so, I can refinance at a better rate. My car insurance more than doubled, though. And with rates in Louisiana as high as they are (the highest in the country, in fact), that's a lot.

My Job

Still doesn't suck. My manager and I talked about my frustruations when I wrote that I was ticked off with him a couple weeks ago, and found a compromise. That is what makes him a good manager. I feel slightly like I am betraying my feminist sisters, but working for a man is so much easier than working for a woman ever was (this is my first male boss ever - which is a little weird, in hindsight).

My Church

Well, interesting happenings on that front.

Our pastor announced to the congregation in January that he was planning to move on. He's approaching retirement (might even be over 65), and while he isn't ready to stop working altogether, he doesn't want to do full-time ministry any more either, and he and his wife want to move somewhere where they are close to at least some of their kids and grandkids. I can't blame him at all. Being a pastor is tough work, even in a small congregation like ours.

Anyway, this weekeend, he announced that May 31st would be his last weekend at our church. There was a kind of "Woah!" that passed through the congregation. We knew it was coming, but suddenly it was a reality. And the reality is, where we are located, an interim pastor may be hard to come by. There is one non-active pastor in the area, though, who would probably be willing to help out on Sunday mornings, but that's about it.

So, we are having to face the grim reality that we will be without a pastor soon, and may be without one for a long while. As a result of this, the
council is trying to get more people involved in active ministry in the congregation. So last night, and with several other opportunities, members of the congregation were invited to do a spiritual gifts inventory, as a way of discovering where the gifts are in our parish and encouraging people to use them.

It was an interesting evening. The woman who led the reflection before the inventory part had an...interesting...theological perspective. It was a mishmash of all the mainline Protestant theologies with a sprinkling of Catholic and a dusting of Baptist/Fundamentalist thrown in for good measure. A couple of times I glanced at the pastor and noticed him kind of wincing with something she said, but he was pretty committed to staying quiet as part of his leaving process.

Anyway, I've done these inventories before, and the areas that come up strong for me are always pretty much the same: teaching, evangelism, pastoral, and exhortation, but I got a surprise last night and got healing thrown in there, too. When I thought about it, though, I guess that makes sense. I abhor conflict, so I'm generally the consensus builder on any committee I'm on. I can usually bring about compromise with limited hurt feelings, too.

It was also interesting because except for a high school senior who is leaving for college in North Carolina in the fall, I was the youngest person in the room by 10 years, and I was the only one who wasn't already active in 87 ministries. By the end of the evening, some of the old ladies had me
chairing two committees and serving on three or four more. I didn't commit to anything, of course, because I believe that discernment is important, even in volunteer ministries like these.

The timing for this thing was pretty good for me. I have been looking for a way to get more involved in congregational life. My self-imposed "waiting period" has ended. You are asking yourself what I mean by that. I will tell you.

When I made it official and joined this congregation, and simultaneously embraced a new denomination, I intentionally wanted to wait before I became involved in any ministries. I wanted to get to know the congregation as a member, and I wanted to learn more about Lutheran theology. I know my primary calling is to teach, and I didn't want to do that if I wasn't sure about what I was teaching.

I also wanted to wait because I didn't want to fall into the trap of deriving a big part of my identity from my involvement in church. Now, when I say that, that doesn't mean that my identity isn't formed by Christ; ultimately, my faith in the Triune God is the most fundamental part of who I am. No, what I mean is that I didn't want my "church (with a little "c") life" to become the be-all and end-all of who I was. It's been that way for most of my adult life, owing partially to my introversion, partially to the fact that it is easy to "be someone" in a church congregation, and partially because I worked professionally in ministry.

But I think I am at the point in my life now where I have more going on. I have a job I love, I have a novel in progress (that actually made some progress over the last couple days), I have friends in Baton Rouge. In short, I have something approaching a life. The one thing missing from that life is a formal opportunity to put the gifts I've been given to work for the Body of Christ.

But I'm pretty sure I don't want to chair the Faith Formation committee, or the Worship committee. And I'm pretty sure I don't want to serve on the Care committee, or the Resource committee, or the Facilitites committee...

Yes folks, this is what happens when you are under 40, belong to a relatively small congregation, and show any interest in any ministry at all.

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