Thursday, September 24, 2009

Musing About Calling

The other day, about to expire from boredom during a lecture on material I have covered repeatedly during nearly each of my various stages of life, I began to play around with the question of call.

I tend to think of the possibilities in terms of three major areas:

Solo pastor of a small or smallish church, a likely venture for a THIRD career woman in (okay, past) midlife. A call in which I could play a major role in shaping and communicating vision and mission, building community, caring for people. A call in which I would do most of the preaching and much of the teaching. A call which might, depending on the resources of the church, be some version of part-time which, while I know part-time does not exist, would provide me with the contractual freedom to teach a college class once or twice a year and set aside a small chunk of time in which to do spiritual direction.

Associate pastor of a larger program-sized church. Another likely venture for my stage in life. Much less of a role in the vision and mission and the preaching (unless it were one of those apparently few-and-far between churches like my home church, in which the senior and associate pastors enjoy a truly collaborative relationship). Perhaps some specialized role in teaching or pastoral care or some combinatuion thereof. And again, perhaps a version of part-time that would allow for other work not specific to the church's mission.

Chaplaincy. A less likely possibility, simply because of the economy and other factors beyond my control, in the setting of my dreams: multicultural, multifaith, acute care Famous Giant Hospital. More likely in a nursing home or hospice setting, or perhaps on one of the smaller campuses of FGH. Only occasional preaching and far less teaching. Perhaps an opportunity to make a significant contribution to the development of the role of spiritual care to patients and staff in a clinical setting; perhaps not. Definitely a role in providing one-on-one and small group pastoral care; perhaps a place for spiritual direction. Probably time to teach that occasional college course. The ability to retain connection and involvement with my home church.

I made myself a little chart: three columns for the above across the top of the page, and a list down the side of things I deem important to ministy, assigned points across the page with respect to how each form of ministry coincided with the areas that seem to matter, and added up each column. I thought about it awhile, and then decided to circle those aspects of ministry of particular importance to me and re-calculate my columns.

Where is God in all this? I wondered to myself. The results were interesting but not surprising; what was surprising was how much more distinct the choices became when I limited my points to those parts of ministry which call out most profoundly to me.

I'm going to save that sheet of paper and try it again as this final year of seminary draws to a close. In the meantime, I think where God was in all this for yesterday was in a lunchtime conversation I had with a pastor from my presbytery who has showed up here for a continuing ed program this week. A little more clarity, a little more understanding about how questions to ask and how to find out the real answers (or something close enough), and a lot of encouragement.

I wonder every few minutes whether I should stay in seminary for the next few. Maybe the fact that I am drawing charts and quantifying things which cannot be quantified and seeking out advice from wise people means that the answer is: So far, yes.


Jennifer said...

Yes, yes, yes.

Kathryn J said...

What Jennifer said. You will be amazing in any of those venues.

Carol said...

Wherever the road takes you AFTER seminary remains to be seen. But the road that got you there can't be forgotten or dismissed. Stick around...

Stratoz said...

wow, I tend to just doodle during meetings/classes. I know a guy who plays jazz trumpet and is a chaplain at a prison. could that be path number 4?

Gannet Girl said...

Probably not the jazz trumpet part.

Stratoz said...

too bad I know a really cool festival in Rochester and some clubs in Philly