Monday, September 5, 2011

Labor and Vocation

It's Labor Day, and on this Labor Day, I'm looking at a new job.  Starting the first Sunday in October, I'll be making that ride out to Poolesville on a far more frequent basis, as I take the position of Supply Pastor at Poolesville Presbyterian Church.  

By some of the more commonly used metrics of employment, some folks might look at the transition I'm making with befuddlement.

The salary my current small church...indexed to the minimum acceptable to Presbytery.  As this is a half-time position and my current position is three-quarter-time, well, you do the math.   It's less money.  The commute goes from twenty minutes without traffic to one hour and ten without traffic.  Each way.   

Less pay?  Longer commute?   And yet, I'm totally psyched.

Being the mutant that I am, salary levels just don't matter to me.  Well, that's not entirely true.  What matters to me is twofold.  First, that salary be sufficient to allow me to shoulder a fair share of the costs of maintaining a household.  As the husband of a working woman, I'm not the sole income provider, eh?  This salary will be sufficient for that.  Second, that salary should be fair relative to what you're doing.  I love pastoring, and marvel that it is even possible to preach and teach the Gospel and talk about the meaning and purpose of our existence...and receive compensation.  This does tend to put me at a bit of a negotiating disadvantage.  Pesky thing about vocation, I guess.  It's so much more than just a "job."

The commute matters.  Too many Americans have come to assume that those two hours a day they spend in traffic are fine and normal.   If I had to make this commute every day, it might get old fast.  But...I'm not.  Nor does the church expect me to.  It's twice a week.  Any other work, like emailing, texting, prepping sermons and talking on the phone and doing reports and creating web-content, that can be done remotely.  And at twice a week, the gorgeous country roads that lead to Poolesville feel like a retreat in and of themselves, particularly in the saddle of a motorcycle.  I'd ride that ride for the good of my soul.

Then there are the benefits, and by benefits, I don't mean pension and major medical.  I mean those other intangibles that make your work feel less like work.  Like, say, a community that laughs easily, and that radiates interpersonal warmth.  Or a place that recognizes the need for human beings to be flexible with one another, and values a life lived in balance.  When I say I need time to care for kids, and to work on doctoral studies, and to's good to see nods around the table.