Monday, November 21, 2011

Keeping Myself Occupied

One of the things I enjoy most about my new ecclesiastical digs out in P-ville is the depth to which my wee kirk is engaged with direct service ministry.   From its active and invaluable engagement with the local direct service ministry to youth-lead engagement with kids in West Africa, this is a church that is actively living out the demand to serve the last and the least and the lost.  Is it perfect?  Nah.  But it's still pretty cool.

That balancing out of theology and service can be a tricky wicket for some congregations.  On the one hand, you've got folks who fixate on theology.   These congregations can be gentle and quietistic.  Or they can be filled with very earnest hard-eyed folks who are more than happy to tell you that they have the answer, and why you really don't understand exactly how You Need To Be Just Like Them.  These congregations can be mean, mean places.

Then there are congregations that flip that, and which are so earnestly focused on fixing injustice that they never quite get around to telling people why they do it.  These congregations are perfectly nice, but they're lousy at adding to their number.  It's easy for them to spiral into isolated grumbling about how things used to be, and how no-one cares any more, as they trudge about wearily resenting the rest of the planet for not getting it together.

I've always been most personally and spiritually content when I'm balancing the two, by which I don't mean being both mean and resentful.  I mean living in the balance between orthodoxy and orthopraxis, between faith and the works that are faith's fruit.

If it's all worship and God-chatter, then I feel dissatisfied.   It's not so much that I feel obligated to engage in service, but rather that when I'm not doing it, I feel listless and frustrated.   If I'm hearing and speaking of the Reign of God, then I naturally yearn to feel that Kingdom dirt between my fingers.  It's what is asked of us, after all.

The challenge is, of course, that I'm just too dag-blanged far away from the teeming metropolis of Poolesville to get deeply engaged in the good work my congregation is doing there.  Some of it?  Sure.  I'm going to be on it if I'm there.   But otherwise, I just cain't do the hour-each-way-with-no-traffic schlep every day and keep my life in balance.  The physical distance is too great.

Plus, I'm only half-time-ish now, and need to respect that.  Some might say I'm underemployed, though I don't feel it.

So this last month, I decided to do what my church does.  To act in solidarity within my own community, so to speak.  From the heart of my "underemployment," I started up working with something called Annandale Christian Community for Action.  It's a direct service ministry right here in my community, and what I'm doing is some grunt work for the Meals on Wheels program.  Meaning I'm now part of the volunteer cadre that drives hot meals to elderly shut-ins in my own neck of the woods.  It's good solid, roots-rock justice n' service stuff.

Unfortunately, those programs have really suffered over the last decade.  It's not that the need isn't there.  The need continues.   But, rather, it's that the culture around us has changed.

If everyone is obligated to work until they're eighty, or engaged in the endless demands of managing children's schedules, then there is no time to dedicate to the needs of those around us.   The deep bonds of voluntarism and neighborly care that are the lifeblood of healthy communities become frayed.

So if you...like me...find yourself with a little bit of extra time on your hands, and the "job creators" haven't found a way to consume your every last waking moment with low-paying labor, consider what you might be able to do with your fallow time.

Perhaps you're called to go camp out in a park.  If so, bless you, my child.  Try to stay warm, and remember to stay focused on why you're there.

If you prefer things to be a bit more hands on, just spend a moment or two on Google.   Start typing the words "Volunteer Opportunities," and the Goog will autofill the places within your area that you might find some meaning and purpose.  There are countless opportunities for action that fulfills the meaning of our day to day.

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