Sunday, June 25, 2006

The call goes on, and on, and on

Our pastor has taken a week of vacation, and she was gone this morning. Many things happened this morning, some planned and some unplanned, but one of the planned things was that I led a significant part of both services.

This might not seem like a big deal to some of you, or might seem like a bigger deal than it was to others. But three weeks ago marked the fourth anniversary of my last Sunday as a UM local pastor, and I have missed that work more than words can say.

I now make my living part-time as a minister of music (I have a B.Mus. in Church Music) and part-time as an office manager for a psychotherapist who is also a UM elder. It's not a bad living, but it's certainly not what I thought I'd be doing at this stage of my life and I'm not making much more money than what it takes to make ends meet. I completed half the hours toward my M.Div. and have significant hours at the Master's level in both Sacred Music and Music Education. I won't go into all the reasons I didn't finish the M.Div., but they all centered around money (or a lack thereof).

Anyway, this morning is the closest I have come in the past four years to serving as the primary worship leader. It was good. I didn't preach; we had a visiting evangelist preach this morning, and I have had a couple of short evening worship opportunities for preaching in the interim, and they were good, too. This was the first time I have offered congregational prayer, issued an invitation, and given a benediction. It's difficult to describe just why, but these things were right. It's where I belonged, at least as of today.

Several people have commented recently about my needing to enter candidacy again. I think they're right, but it's not financially possible right now (again, as of today at least). The visiting evangelist commented after the service about how good he thought my children's sermon was. He liked that I engaged the children with the text for the morning. This was just the latest of out-of-the-blue affirmations of what I've come to realize is the ongoing call to ordained ministry.

As much as I love music and find fulfillment and blessing in leading music in the church, the same answer I surprised myself by giving at my first District-level candidacy interview 14 years ago is echoing in my head now: I'm not passionate enough about music. The passion for worship leadership, however, has never gone away and it smacked me hard this morning.

This impotence of longing to be able to respond to this resurgence of God's call, yet it not being possible at the moment, is a deep ache in me. I suspect that it's important to allow myself to feel that, however. Perhaps that's why God led me to the blogging project, and especially to the RevGals. (Thanks...I think!)

Don't get me wrong: this morning was good. Despite the sudden changes in music for the services because our accompanist was unable to get a flight back in time to be here, the big gap in the choir ("when the cat's away" syndrome re: the pastor's published vacation), and a few other more minor bumps, worship happened and God was glorified. (The evangelist was really, REALLY good!) I know that this isn't about me, at least not much. But when God reminds one that the call hasn't been rescinded despite whatever detours the path has taken, there is at least a little personal aspect to the worship experience.

I'll keep up here on how things progress. I suspect God isn't going to let up on me.


Sue said...

Thank you for posting this. Your morning does indeed sound Spirit-blessed!

God keeps calling, and we keep responding.....and this is good!

SingingOwl said...

How well I remember the ache of knowing the call is there, and the gifts, and the passion...and no way to see how it could be. I am praying about this with you. I assume you still own your shepherdess picture? :-)

Psalmist said...

All right, you owl, I'm finally crying. Thanks a whole lot! Yes, I still have the shepherdess picture.

Thank you both, seriously, for your comments. I appreciate the support and prayer.

P.S. (an after-thought) said...

My daughter went to seminary on somebody else's dime. A seminary of another denomination gives big scholarships and she was able to get it all paid for. We could have helped a bit, but there are the other kids to get through college, etc.

I'm wondering if there may be some special people you could ask for some financial support. Sometimes one needs only to ask. Pastors often earn too little to pay back loans very well, so I'm talking about asking for outright support. It is worth praying about this.

Psalmist said...

I appreciate the suggestions, Proclaiming. More than you can know.

The biggest complication is the amount of debt I incurred on the half-completed degree, which necessitates that I keep working full-time. I could theoretically go to the most local seminary tomorrow (well, in the fall) and know that their excellent financial aid package would cover nearly all the expense of seminary itself. It's the living expenses and the debt repayment that require a decent income at the same time. Wherever I would go, enough time has elapsed that I'll have to start all over again. Were it for a year or so, it would be more manageable.

But of course, as you remind me, prayer is the prime thing right now. And honestly, as I listen to God, my response currently is "Yes, but you'll have to show me how." And the "how" is still a total mystery to me. What I do know is that I must remain faithful where I am right now. Ministry at my present church is quite fruitful and I'm building strong relationships. The lemonade God's helping me make from the lemons of leaving pastoral ministry, really does taste pretty good! It may be that, in time, a solution I can't now perceive, will present itself.

Thanks so much for your comment. Definitely, I'll keep praying!

P.S. (an after-thought) said...

Some denominations need to do a better job at helping their committed pastoral candidtate!