“I don’t plan on changing anything while I am at St. Paul’s,” I said to my husband, shortly before I began my six month supply position with them, “It’s not really my role in a six month appointment.”
“Really,” he says, the words drawn out a bit skeptically. His skepticism is valid, I am not known for my acceptance of the status quo. In ministry, I have been one who consistently asks ‘why’ and am not satisfied with ‘that’s the way we have always done it.’ I have had little patience for traditions and customs that exclude and present barriers to a life of following Jesus. I try to expand horizons and encourage congregations to go beyond what they remember and love in order to be the church now.
In this place, my role is more to be a placeholder for the next person, whether that is me or someone else. It’s not up to me to try and make deep cultural, adaptive changes, even if I see the need. It’s my place to preach, teach and tend. And perhaps it is my place to raise questions that empower them to make decisions that are best for them now, at this point in their history.
It’s different being in a supply position rather than a called one. There are both blessings and challenges. Blessings in that I don’t feel responsible to grow the church, to ‘fix’ any systems, or really worry about the finances. There is a sense that the ministry is more in the hands of the people, and perhaps that is one of the things to be learned in this place and this time.
One of the biggest challenges is that I am accustomed to constantly looking ahead to the next season or even the season after that and realize that there is no community of faith that I can visualize who might be part of those dreams and plans. And so, in that challenge is also the gift of being present. Another blessing is that I can’t take on too much either, and make them dependent on me.
I often come home and tell my husband about a new idea I have, or a ministry possibility. He just looks and me and says, “What happened to ‘I’m not going to change anything?” I can’t keep from thinking and dreaming though… Messy Church… Dinner Church… Messy Dinner Church! There are so many possibilities. The building is only 25 years old, it’s fully accessible, it’s in good shape, it has parking and supports a full range of community ministries and activities.
Having said all that, I wonder what the reaction will be on Sunday to what the worship committee approved this week: a slightly adjusted order of service and rearranged sanctuary! Hopefully no fireworks!