Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Third Year's The Charm

On the third anniversary of my priesting, I decided to put some words to my thoughts.

I am more affirmed in my faith and in my calling when I took my vows. The closest thing I can liken it to is marriage. When I got married, oh my we were so young, I thought I knew what I was doing and what I was promising. I said the words in good faith, and meant them then and now. My priestly vows were/are much the same. It is in the walking that the path is revealed, says a wise friend, and this could not be more true in my ministry as an Episcopal priest. Looking back, this long meandering route has been the point of this life for me. I love Jesus more today than three years ago when I was priested, and I love Jesus more than when I was baptized 37 years ago. Little did I realize where the path would lead. I have often said that the flashlight of faith only shines backward, and I think it is for our sanity's sake. If you had told me 10 years ago where I would be, or 20, or 30 years ago I could not have imagined it, and may have worked to derail it. But when I look with the eyes of faith of where I have been, I could only squint into the murkiness of the days ahead seeing how clear the path behind me has been. It did not seem so at the time(s) of worry, but quoting another wise one, "Wouldn't take nothin' for my journey now." 

But, as I get more and more these days, what are you going to do? I was ordained by Bishop Shannon at St. Thomas' in Richmond, and had a good ministry there until they lay me off at the end of July. It was not a response to my work or ethic. It was a financial reality that has taken a real toll on my family. My commitment to and care for them could not be returned, at least not employment-wise. And that is worrisome. The shape of ministry and employment of "professional Christians" is changing drastically. More and more congregations and ministers will have to be creative and make hard choices about who they hire for what. I have applied for many jobs, both rectors and assistants. And for a variety of reasons I have not been the right fit. That is always hard to hear. But once again, as I look back, the same God who called us down this path and was there before will be with us ahead in the future wherever the path may lead. 

I have preached more regularly and celebrated more often in my "intermission" than when I was full-time with a parish. I have been influential in dreams and visioning with leaders and bishops when I maintain no official "status" by a paid role, but I am still fortunate and blessed that my insights and ideas still being considered. Two weeks ago I was fortunate enough to have dinner with a prominent bishop of the Episcopal Church, and the next morning to have breakfast with the CEO of a national faith-oriented non-profit, and still wonder where I could get a cheap lunch. Laughable, humbling, and real, oh so real. 

As we look ahead, I am still applying and praying about our next call. I am intricately intertwined with the Diocese of Virginia having many leadership roles that I long to continue and live out the commitments I have made. Leaving the area and state would make these commitments impossible. I have been reached out to by many friends and our bishops with affirming words and shared frustration about the processes as they have gone. Steph is soon able to share some great news that we have had to keep quiet about that explains a lot of why we have been working so hard to stay in greater RVA. All that being said, please keep our next steps in your prayers. The last 13 months have been anxious since we learned that I was soon to be un(der)employed.

Would I still do it all over again? Yes. No question. Maybe next year we can look back and say, "Ah, I see why now." We will see. 

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Blessings, Rock