I am just completing my three year term as an elder on our church's Session (governing council), serving on (and this past year, chairing) our Ministry for Education and Formation.
In practical terms, that means my schedule of, at an absolute minimum, two (and more usually three to five) church meetings per month is behind me. I no longer have to spend summer afternoons with committees dreaming up year long plans and programs, I no longer have to make cold calls (or, thankfully these days, emails) to potential speakers, and I no longer have to manage the endless stream of paperwork that accompanies any administrative task. It also means I'll no longer have a mailbox at the church, I'll no longer be on the receiving end of those emails when Something Happens, and I won't get an invite to the annual Robert Burns party, featuring haggis and terrible poetry recitations.
I think we've had a great run. From the adult end -- my particular area of concern -- we've put together a Sunday morning program that has taken us through Biblical text, church traditions, and spiritual practices -- and this year, by popular demand, we're back on the Bible again. As folks learned more about the traditions and practices that mark Christian life, they started asking for a return to the Biblical foundation -- an unexpected and very cool development.
We've read and discussed books as a church -- C.S. Lewis's Mere Christianity, Charles Kimball's When Religion Becomes Evil, Jim Wallis's God's Politics. Charles Kimball came and spent a fall week-end with us, providing a community lecture, a Sunday morning adult education session, and a Sunday sermon. We've had small group Bible and spiritual practice groups, and men's and women's spirituality groups, and a small center for quiet spiritual reflection is up and running from Advent through Lent. Most of all that is the product of a large group of hardworking people and has little to do with me, but it's been a real pleasure to see our program grow and fill vacuums that we weren't even aware existed.
From a personal standpoint I've gotten to do one of the things I love most -- I had to make a resume last week and discovered as I surveyed my computer files that I have taught adult classes on Benedictine and Ignatian spirituality; the history of the church in America; hospitality as a response to pluralism; the practice of prayer and the practice of Sabbath-keeping, the text pertaining to Abraham, Hagar, Sarah and Sons as part of our look at the story from Jewish, Christian, and Muslim perspectives; and the Tamar story as part of our Advent series on the women in Matthew's genealogy. I've learned so much and had so much fun!
I've just finished writing the minutes from my last meeting and revising my section of the annual report that will go to our congregation later this month. I hate writing minutes, so I don't mind scratching that job from my list, but I am really going to miss this level of engagement with my congregation. And I am going to be sad when the next Session heads off in the snow for a retreat at the end of this month. I, alas, will be studying Greek.