Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Subroutines

This last Sunday, I sat down with my session and finalized my commitment to depart my current congregation at the end of October of 2011.  As my request to provide interim ministry so that the church could openly seek a new pastor while I was still here was nixed by presbytery, there just isn't any other viable option.

Just dithering about and waiting for something to happen does no one any good.  Without hard and fast deadlines towards which a church can plan, things have a tendency to just float and stagnate.  It was a necessary decision, and hopefully one that gives folks here a fighting chance at making things work.

Still and all, setting that date has proven a bit troubling personally.  Finding options for ministry that don't involve me leaving the area is difficult.  There's an overabundance of ordained pastors seeking churches in the DC area.  And leaving the area isn't possible without leaving my family behind, which isn't really the most desirable scenario.  There is, after October 30, 2011, the very real possibility that I will no longer be functionally a pastor.  Yeah, I can do supply preaching.  Or something.  But it's still a large black hole of uncertainty, bearing with it the painful possibility of vocational unfulfillment.  Most significantly, I also don't yet feel...called...anywhere.  Meaning, I'm not yet getting the spiritual cues that show what door, if any, my Maker is opening.  Ultimately, where I go is not really up to me.

In the face of that unsettling possibility, I'd like to say that I was as serene as a cloud, detached and unaffected, confident that the Good Lord has a plan for me.  But lately, I've been feeling less and less like the nonanxious presence that I need to be, and more and more like a panicked cadet during a hull breach.

In the face of that rising anxiety, I reviewed my options.  On the one hand, I could just start pounding back forties of Colt 45 every evening until the world blurs to nothing.  For some reason, this seems like a mistake.  I could just let my anxiety feed on itself until I'm a useless twitching frozen mass of stress.  This also seems like a poor choice.

What I've recently done is expand my prayer life.  Yeah, I know, crazy thing.  To my usual morning and evening prayers (a simple mix of the Lord's Prayer and prayers of supplication and intercession), I've added time for chanting meditation. 

And I have all the time I need.  The way I figure it, I spend a couple of hours a day in a rolling monastic cell as it is.  My commute, reinforced over the span of six and a half years in this ministry, may be across one of the gnarliest stretches of eight lane in the country, but it's so familiar as to require just a small fragment of my mental processing power.  So I've shut off the jabberbox, and stopped making phone calls, and started using the time to pray.  In this era of handsfree bluetooth, I don't even need to worry about looking insane. 

What's amazed me, as I've spent a week chanting Taize music and other meditative songs for the entire duration of my commute, is not just that I feel more centered.  Not totally centered, but better.  It's not just that it echoes through my day, and seems to change the pattern and flow of things, as prayer does.  It's how easy it is to both drive and chant and still turn my thoughts to other things.

After fifteen minutes of singing the same refrain, it requires no effort at all.  My body just takes up the chant, and drives, and both just carry on by themselves.   I find, now, that as I both drive and sing, that there is space for intentionally praying over people, and for visualizing those in need.  It's a bit like layering prayer over prayer, the embodied chant harmonizing with the mentally vocalized prayers of confession and intercession, while some semi-autonomous subroutine in my cortex carefully checks the lane next to me, signals, and pulls over. 

Amazing things, our minds are.

3 comments:

  1. You could be a journalist - your writing is always engaging, thought-provoking and witty.

    Or a philosophy or religion professor at a community college- you are current on what is going on with faith and society and have a spirituality that students would be drawn to. I think they would relate to you and your blog.

    Just a couple ideas for you(!)

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  2. I stumbled across your blog through a Google alert for blogs mentioning "interim ministry." I wasn't intending to barge into someone's personal life, but I couldn't resist at least leaving you a note. I'm not sure if you are interested at all, but perhaps The Center for Congregational Health could help? Both for you - in our coaching options - and the church - in our interim ministry options. Anyway, if you have a minute and want to check us out: www.healthychurch.org. No matter, many blessings on your journey!

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  3. @ Natalie: I'll check it out! And fear not. There's no barging involved...what I put out on the web is for public consumption, comment, and discussion. Thank you for the blessings!

    ReplyDelete